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Save the Date: VCDA Spring Conference in Randolph, May 14th

Posted March 31, 2015

Please join the Vermont Community Development Association (VCDA) for its Spring Conference on Thursday, May 14th at The Lyons Den in Randolph, VT. The theme of this year’s conference is “Age-Friendly Communities – Possibilities, Challenges, and Social & Economic Benefits.” Click here for more details (PDF file). Complete registration packet will follow soon. Contact Theresa Bachand at VLCT for more information at (802) 229-9111, tbachand@vlct.org.

 



Gov. Shumlin Announces Strategy to End Family Homelessness by 2020

Posted

With over 1,500 Vermonters without housing on any given night and families with children now making up half of all people in emergency shelters, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen today announced a statewide strategy for ending child and family homelessness in Vermont by 2020. The Governor and Secretary made the announcement while celebrating a grant of more than a half-million dollars to rehabilitate and increase the number affordable housing units in Chittenden County, helping to relieve a shortage that affects all of those who face homelessness.

“Even with serious budget challenges, we are fortunate in Vermont to have many of the programs and partnerships already in place to support an ambitious initiative,” Gov. Shumlin said. “We can build on these foundations to achieve the goal of ending childhood and family homelessness by 2020.”

The administration’s initiative adopts the national strategy supported by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and others. Vermont’s plan will bring together programs operated by the Agency of Human Services, federal programs providing housing and shelter assistance, and local organizations that provide shelter, housing and services to Vermonters who are homeless or at-risk. The full three-part plan to attack homelessness includes:

  1. Adopting the national “Family Connection” framework, developed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, to ensure that local communities have a coordinated system for assessing families’ housing needs and connecting them to the appropriate benefits, employment, and evidence-based intervention the first time.
  2. Bringing together rental subsidy programs with intensive services for people who are homeless so that families can get into housing faster and local providers spend less time chasing and coordinating resources and more time addressing and resolving the root causes that led to homelessness.
  3. Bringing together rental subsidy programs with intensive services for people who are homeless so that families can get into housing faster and local providers spend less time chasing and coordinating resources and more time addressing and resolving the root causes that led to homelessness.

During this announcement, Gov. Shumlin also presented a $580,000 grant for the construction and rehabilitation of fourteen new affordable apartments and a day station for the homeless at 95 North Avenue in Burlington. The project is being developed by the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) and Housing Vermont. To read the full press release, click here. For more information on the full, three-part plan, click here.

For further media coverage, see the links below:
Shumlin: End Family Homelessness by 2020 (Burlington Free Press)
Shumlin Announces Plan to End Family, ChildHood Homelessness By 2020 (VT Digger)
Grant Bolsters COTS’ North Avenue Plans (Seven Days)
Governor’s New Plan to End Family Homelessness (WPTZ)
State Goal: End Homelessness in VT by 2020 (Rutland Herald)
VT Agencies Commit to End Family Homelessness in 5 Years (myChamplainValley.com)
Shumlin Unveils Homelessness Strategy (WCAX)

 



April Fair Housing Month Events

Posted March 30, 2015

On April 1st, one of several events for April is Fair Housing Month will be taking place. Inside of Burlington’s City Hall, 148 Church St., just outside of the Contois auditorium entrance, from 5:00pm – 7:00pm, the following activities are scheduled:

  • The Mayor of Burlington, and Burlington City Council President, Joan Shannon, will deliver proclamations of this April, as Fair Housing Month for Burlington, Vermont.
  • Jazz a cappella songs will be performed by the Calloway Taxi singers;
  • An art exhibit in the City Hall Gallery will be opening: “A PLACE CALLED HOME.” The exhibition features the work of four women artists – Anne Cummings, Winnie Looby, Lyna Lou Nordstrom, and Deborah Sharpe-Lunstead, each demonstrating a different perspective of what home means through their creative process.

Many other projects related to Fair Housing Month will be taking place during the month across Burlington & Winooski. The hope is that this will become an annual event that will expand beyond Chittenden County! For the most up-to-date information on events see the HeArt & Home Facebook Page here. For more information on CVOEO’s Fair Housing Project click here.

HeArt&Home

 



House Backs Mobile Home Safeguards

Posted

VT State Legislature is currently considering a bill that would protect mobile home residents by requiring maintenance of roads and access points for emergency responders. The article below from the Waterbury Record provides more information on what this bill would do to address these safety concerns:

2011, flooding from Tropical Storm Irene destroyed more than 40 mobile homes in Whalley Park in Waterbury, flooded all 19 mobile homes at Patterson Park in Duxbury, and demolished 125 mobile homes in all across the state.

The flooding damaged a total of 16 trailer parks and led to the closure of two parks, where up to 40 mobile homes were either destroyed or damaged with no money for repair, according to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

Now, state legislators are considering a bill to give more protections to mobile home residents by requiring park owners to maintain safe roads and access points for emergency responders.

The House voted 95-47, with seven abstentions, to pass a bill sponsored by Rep. William Botzow, D-Bennington; the Senate takes it up next.

“The protections advanced by the House embody the essential role of state government,” House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, said this week. “Working to ensure the health and safety of all Vermonters — rural, urban, low and moderate income — is vital to the health of our communities and state.”

The bill was introduced after legislators directed the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development to investigate problems affecting residents of the state’s 7,125 mobile home lots. Up to three-quarters of the state’s 242 mobile home parks are 40 years old or more, and many lack up-to-date septic and utility systems, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Rep. Helen Head, who chairs the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs, applauded the bill.

“This bill creates a path for enforcement of health and safety, ensuring that ambulances and fire trucks can get in to help residents in our mobile home parks,” she said. “All Vermonters should have access to emergency services in their time of need.”

For a link to he full article, click here.

 



Cathedral Square Named One of the Best Places to Work in Vermont

Posted

Cathedral Square was recently named one of the 2015 Best Places to Work in Vermont. This statewide award is designed to identify, recognize and honor the best places of employment in Vermont, benefiting the state’s economy, workforce and businesses.

Companies across Vermont were evaluated based on workplace policies, practices, philosophy, demographics and feedback from employees. The combined scores determined the top companies and final rankings.

“This recognition means a great deal to us. We have always taken pride in the respect our employees and residents have for each other,” states Nancy Rockett Eldridge, CEO, Cathedral Square Corporation. “We enjoy working together each day to enhance Vermont communities and the quality of life for many Vermonters.”

The annual list of the Best Places to Work in Vermont was created by Vermont Business Magazine, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, the Vermont Department of Economic Development, the Vermont Department of Labor, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) – Vermont State Council and Best Companies Group.

cathedralsquare

 



“Amplifying Voices” Plan BTV South End Community Mural Art Opening, April 16th

Posted March 26, 2015

As part of the Plan BTV South End ​artist grant initiative, our Resident Organizer (and artist) Michelle Sayles and artist Jen Berger collaborated with South End residents to create the ‘Amplifying Voices’ mural project. Read more about the project and art opening below:

Please join us for the Art Opening and Reception on Thursday April 16, from 6-8 pm, at Arts Riot, 400 Pine St. Burlington, VT. See the mural, meet the residents and find out more about the process and the stories included in this mural.

About the project:

Supported by a grant through BCA as part of the Plan BTV process, Michelle and jen hosted community conversations, distributed surveys and collected one-on-one interviews with residents of low-income housing in Burlington’s South End as a way to talk about topics such as home, community, transportation, and quality of life. These stories were compiled and translated into a 6’x8′ mural that synthesizes four main narratives, including a desire for recreation/entertainment space, safe and efficient transit options and a place for multiple generations to gather and enjoy opportunities for learning and being in community.

AmpVoices

 



Vermont Nets $9 M For Innovative Pilot Program Pairing SNAP With Jobs Training

Posted March 25, 2015

Vermont will be among the first states in the country to pilot a program designed to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-eligible (3SquaresVT) participants find new jobs and develop new skills for the workforce, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Friday. The State of Vermont community partners across Vermont are being awarded $9 million in competitive federal grants to fund the pilot program and evaluate the results, so the best approaches can later be tried in other states. Vermont is one of only ten projects selected across the nation in this competitive process.

Leahy said: “Vermont’s selection as one of only ten states in this pilot project is a great credit to our state. It’s the result of thoughtful, methodical work on this application by the State of Vermont and these community partners. By applying practical help to lift Vermonters out of poverty, it will change lives one by one, family by family and community by community. This support will make a particular difference in the struggles faced by SNAP participants who are homeless, suffering from substance abuse or who are struggling to return to the workforce.”

Vermont’s pilot program, Jobs for Independence, was developed by the Vermont Agency of Human Services (AHS) Department of Children and Families (DCF) as a cross agency approach to help increase the earned income of SNAP participants and ultimately, the reduction or elimination of individuals’ dependency on SNAP benefits. Service providers will work together to provide post-secondary education and training, financial literacy and job placement, as well as address significant barriers to employment and financial security often faced by the SNAP recipients. Comprehensive supports for increasing access to high-quality childcare, transportation, transitional housing support and job-retention will also provide participants with the necessary tools to successfully transition to financial instability. Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, was instrumental in including the pilot program in the 2014 Farm Bill, and this week $200 million in competitive awards to fund and evaluate pilot projects in 10 states was announced.

Leahy has long been a champion as well of the SNAP program. Vermont currently provides about 87,000 Vermonters with SNAP benefits. Studies have shown that SNAP has an economic multiplier effect; every dollar in new SNAP benefits results in $1.80 in total economic activity. Leahy said that pairing this already successful safety net with a jobs-driven approach to help Vermonters “makes good, practical sense.”

“This is innovative, this is practical, and this is what I had in mind when we included this program and these funds in last year’s Farm Bill,” said Leahy.

Some of the state agencies and community partners involved in the Jobs for Independence Pilot project include the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Corrections (DOC), and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), the Community College of Vermont (CCV), Capstone Community Action, (Capstone) and other community action agencies and nonprofit organizations throughout Vermont.

Deputy Commissioner of Economic Services Division of the Vermont DCF Sean Brown said: “Vermont is pleased and excited to be one of ten states recently awarded a USDA federal grant to implement employment and training services for SNAP participants. With input and collaboration between state agencies, employers, and nonprofit organizations, these funds will be utilized to bolster the efficacy of existing employment support services, and provide novel solutions to problems facing job-seekers. By taking a holistic approach to assessing an individual’s unique barriers to employment, the State of Vermont and its community partners look forward to helping Vermont’s most vulnerable citizens obtain the skills and support they need for long-term employment, higher wages, and overall self-sufficiency.”

To read the full press release click here.

 



Housing Assistance Council Serving Veterans in Rural America Conference, May 20th in Washington, DC

Posted March 23, 2015

On May 20th from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm the Housing Assistance Council will be holding their second annual Serving Veterans in Rural America Conference at the US Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC. Confirmed speakers include Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA); Roger J. Casey, Director of Education, Veterans Health Administration National Center on Homelessness; Ann Oliva, Director, HUD Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs; Keith Kelly, Assistant Secretary, US Department of Labor; Tony Hernandez, RHS Administrator, USDA; Heather Pritchard, The Home Depot Foundation, Atlanta, GA; Jon Dieter, Longview Housing Authority, Longview, WA; Denis Leary, Veterans, Inc., Worcester, MA; Rozann Downing, Community Action Network, Springville, TN; and John Gallina, Purple Heart Homes, Statesville, NC. Additional Congress members invited.

Read more about the event and how to RSVP below:

Rural Americans have a strong history of service to the U.S. military. A disproportionate number of veterans come from and return to small towns and rural America. Approximately 5.6 million, or 11.4 percent, of the rural population served in the military, accounting for a quarter of all veterans in 2010. Rural America serves, but this service is then often overlooked. Veterans are also not a homogenous group, nor are their needs. As two wars overseas wind down, more veterans are coming home. At the same time the demographic changes associated with the baby boom generation and the overall greying of America will also impact veterans’ needs in rural areas. Providing critical programs can be particularly challenging in rural America due to vast geographies, limited resources, and less social service infrastructure.

This second annual conference features Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson as a main speaker. The conference will provide information on housing, health, and employment needs and programs for rural veterans. It will draw attention to this sometimes forgotten group, and showcase model programs that help. A special focus will be on successful local projects serving veterans.

Co-sponsored by The Home Depot Foundation, the conference will also feature a presentation on data and demographic information about rural veterans. HAC is a national nonprofit that helps rural communities build affordable housing and communities. One of our initiatives is service to rural veterans.

The Home Depot Foundation serves as the philanthropic arm of The Home Depot and has invested more than $340 million in local communities since being established in 2002. The mission of The Home Depot Foundation is simple to improve homes and improve lives. In 2011, The Home Depot Foundation focused its financial and volunteer resources to help nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the homes of economically disadvantaged U.S. military veterans. To date, the Foundation has committed more than $80 million and the volunteer skills of thousands of Home Depot associates to these efforts.

For more information, contact Janice@ruralhome.org. Additional information about HAC’s Affordable Housing for Rural Veterans program can be found at www.ruralhome.org. There is no charge for the symposium but registration is requested. (Breakfast and lunch are included.) To register, please send the following information to Janice@ruralhome.org:
Name
Organization
E-mail address
Zip Code

Housing-Assistance-Councilvetrural

 



Record Cold Plays Havoc With Emergency Housing Budget

Posted March 20, 2015

This week, VT Digger reported more on the strain that this year’s winter weather has put on the emergency housing budget. Read the article below or click here to view on their website:

In February, temperatures dropped to minus 19 degrees at the Burlington International Airport, breaking a record that stood since 1914.

Vermont set more troubling records this winter as well — the most consecutive nights where a cold weather exemption gave homeless people in the state access to emergency housing.

For 69 days, from Dec. 29 to March 8, every county in the state met the requirement for a cold weather exemption. When temperatures drop below 20 degrees, or below 32 degrees with snow or freezing rain, the state relaxes the eligibility requirements for emergency housing.

That’s the longest streak of statewide cold weather exemptions since the program’s implementation three years ago.

At the same time, the number of people, especially families, who are homeless and seeking emergency shelter from the cold has also increased, according to state officials. Their ranks well exceed the capacity of warming shelters, and the state is housing homeless Vermonters in hotel rooms.

The state approved $3.4 million to cover 36,314 hotel nights through the end of February; 8,942 were for the people who qualified under the cold weather exemption, at a cost of $1.5 million. Virtually all that money is spent on hotel and motel lodgings. Those numbers may come down as sometimes people approved for a hotel stay don’t show, and it can take up to two months for the state to receive bills from participating hotels.

The amount that has been approved already exceeds the $3.2 million in the current budget for emergency housing. That appropriation includes an additional $600,000 from the Budget Adjustment Act — and it does not include March, which has had a number of cold weather nights in many areas of the state.

“Based on our current spending we are going to be over budget,” said Sean Brown, deputy commissioner of economic services for the Department for Children and Families. “We are going to have to re-evaluate our budget for the program and find a new way forward.”

Appropriating more money for the current budget would require approval from the Emergency Board, a panel chaired by the governor and consisting of the chairs of the Legislature’s money committees.

Even with the opening of a new 20-bed warming shelter at the old Ethan Allen Club in Burlington, the highest demand area, costs continue to mount. That shelter has run at overflow capacity since opening in early February, housing between 24 and 28 people per night, according to Brown.

It still hasn’t been enough to keep up with demand, and costs continue to mount.

“Given the growth in the need in the program, that didn’t put a huge dent in spending,” Brown said.

Next year, the state will open a 52-bed shelter in downtown Burlington, which will help reduce costs Brown said, but at the same time, the governor’s proposed budget cuts $300,000 from the program in anticipation of those savings.

A dramatic rise in homelessness is driving the need for emergency housing. Requests for housing were up 64 percent through December, and the state provided 50 percent more hotel rooms per night. More families are seeking shelter, and there has been a 144 percent increase in the number of children who received housing through the cold weather exemption.

The events that lead to homelessness are varied and often unique to the individual or their family. Still, advocates point to the rise in substance abuse disorders, especially opiate addiction, stagnant wages and a lack of affordable housing in the state as a few of the underlying causes.

 



Home Sharing Day at the Vermont Legislature on March 25th

Posted

Join Home Share Now and HomeShare Vermont on Wednesday, March 25 from 8:30-2:00 in the Card Room at the Vermont State House where staff, volunteers, board of directors, and participants will be celebrating home sharing in Vermont.

homesharenowhomesharevt

 



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