subscribe to our blog receive updates via email



Older stories

powered by wordpress


VT AHS Summary Housing Outcomes – 2015

Posted January 20, 2016

To view the summaries of key VT Agency of Human Services housing programs such as emergency shelter & services, supportive housing, weatherization and homelessness prevention over FY 2015, click here.


AHS/DCF Emergency Housing Proposal

Posted April 28, 2015

The Agency of Human Services and Department for Children and Families have just announced a proposal to restructure their emergency housing program. Please read more below and click here for the referenced attachment. The deadine to submit feedback is May 8th. DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz and other representatives will be at the May 13th VAHC meeting to discuss the proposal. The Coalition is also seeking feedback from members on the proposal, which can be emailed to

Hello Fellow Housing Partners –

We are writing to let you know that DCF is proposing to restructure its emergency housing program.  Attached to this email is an outline of a proposal to repurpose the money used for hotel vouchers in the GA program to fund community grants to homeless providers across the state.  It sets forth a path to transition from providing emergency housing using motels to using community based services such as low barrier and warming shelters, transitional housing and other services to meet the needs of all homeless individuals and families effective October 1, 2015.

While DCF leadership recognizes this is an ambitious plan and timeframe, we believe it is achievable.  We have heard many concerns from community partners, ESD staff and homeless individuals and families that the current system is not adequately addressing the ever increasing rate of homelessness, nor providing a pathway to stable, permanent housing.  We ask you, our community partners, to help us address the problem of homelessness in our state in a way that matches the needs and capacity in your community while addressing the needs of people regardless of their age, disability or sobriety who require emergency shelter due to homelessness, domestic violence or other factors.

Over the coming weeks DCF will engage our community partners across the state to seek input on the proposal.  An important element to the proposal is seeking legislation to  have the authority should we move forward with this change.

Please feel free to forward this email to your housing partners and to review the attached document and respond with comments, questions and suggestions by May 8th via email (see addresses and instructions below).  Or, if you prefer, please bring your questions to your next Continuum of Care or Housing meeting as we will be visiting local meetings in the upcoming weeks.

Thank you,
AHS Secretary Hal Cohen and DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz

Should you decide to email your questions or input, please feel free to direct it to with “Emergency Housing Initiative” in the subject line:

Sean Brown, Deputy Commissioner Economic Services Division –
Paul Dragon, Director of DCF’s Office of Economic Opportunity –
Karen Vastine, Principal Assistant to Commissioner Schatz –


First Seven Promise Communities Selected

Posted April 13, 2015

The Agency of Human Services recently announced the selection of the first seven Vermont communities that will participate in the new Promise Communities initiative. This initiative supports collaboration across the education, health care, human service, public, and private sectors to create an all-of-the-above, comprehensive approach to transforming communities to better support children with high needs.

The communities selected to participate in the first part of the initiative are:

  • Barre City, Barre Town
  • Bellows Falls
  • Green Street to Canal Street in Brattleboro
  • Franklin County Early Childhood Programs region (includes the schools of Franklin Central and Franklin Northwest Supervisory Unions)
  • Rutland City
  • St. Johnsbury
  • Winooski

The selection committee considered community need by looking at data around poverty, kindergarten readiness and third grade achievement, as well as access to high quality child care in each community. They also looked for evidence of community will and readiness demonstrated by a broad array of committed community partners and a plan to bring non-traditional partners and families to the table. Finally, the committee considered the difference communities planned to make in the lives of children and families and the number of children from birth to age 6 that will be affected by the initiative.

“I am excited by this group of communities from across Vermont,” said Governor Shumlin, who announced the initiative in February. “It is our shared duty to help children thrive and grow up to contribute to a vibrant economic future for our state, and we need to make sure that that’s happening in every village and town. I hope these first seven serve as models for other communities to participate down the road.”

Communities participating in the initiative commit to a two-year process. In year one, Promise Community coaches will facilitate the development of each community’s Promise Community Roadmap, which includes compiling a community needs assessment and creating an action plan to improve outcomes for children and families. Once the action plan is in place, financial support – consisting of grants up to $200,000 – will be given to the community to support implementation efforts. The coaches will remain in the community during year two, providing technical assistance to move forward with the plan. An evaluator will continue to monitor long-term outcomes for the community.

“Our goal with this initiative,” said Secretary of Human Services Hal Cohen, “is to help communities overcome barriers like limited transportation, inter-generational poverty, inadequate affordable housing, and the lack of local employment opportunities that inhibit success for young children. The Promise Communities initiative will leverage state and local resources and promote community-based innovations to improve school readiness for young children in our highest need, rural communities.”

The Promise Communities initiative is a project of Vermont’s Early Learning Challenge – Race to the Top Grant; a $36.9 million, federally funded, four-year grant to help build a high-quality and accessible early childhood system in the state so that all young children will be ready to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.


Gov. Shumlin Announces Strategy to End Family Homelessness by 2020

Posted March 31, 2015

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 (
Shumlin Unveils Homelessness Strategy (WCAX)


Seeking Public Comments on the Agency of Human Services (AHS) & the Department for Children and Families (DCF)

Posted August 18, 2014

The Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty is soliciting public input from interested parties and service providers on possible recommendations or changes within Department for Children and Families encompassing all divisions of the Department. If you, or an agency you know, would like to provide input there are three ways to do so: 1) Attend a public hearing, 2) submit written comments; or 3) take an online survey – which may be done anonymously. There are key questions for consideration offered as a starting point for potential dialogue, but those are neither exhaustive nor exclusive. Anyone may submit any written comments and there is space on the survey for additional comments.

Please spread the word and encourage your networks to attend the public hearings or submit written testimony. It is critically important that service providers and agencies and individuals you work with are involved in this process. Now is the time to weigh in before decisions are made that affect the Vermonters you serve.

The VAHC, VCEH, and numerous member organizations are well represented on the Council on Pathways from Poverty’s 30-member advisory body. It is made up exclusively of volunteers, including advocates, direct service providers, housing and development experts and low-income Vermonters.

Below you will find the full announcement with detailed instructions and questions to consider. To view this file in document form to print and/or distribute click here.  To view the information on the official Vermont DCF site click here.


Seeking Public Comments on the Agency of Human Services (AHS) & the Department for Children and Families (DCF)

The Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty, in collaboration with the AHS Secretary and DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone, is seeking public comments on ways the Agency of Human Services can improve the delivery of services to families with children served by the Department for Children and Families. There are three ways to provide your comments:

  1. Attend a Public Hearing: Hearings will be held on two dates: August 28, 2014 at 6:00 PM and September 5, 2014 at 2:00 PM. You can attend at any of the 13 Vermont Interactive Television sites located around the state. For a complete list of VIT sites go to or call (802) 728-1455.
  2. Mail your comments: You can mail your comments to the following address through September 30, 2014: Agency of Human Services, AHS Secretary 208 Hurricane Lane, Suite 103, Williston, VT 05495
  3. Complete an online survey: Complete the survey (anonymously if you wish) at The survey has the same key questions discussed below as well as space for additional comments.

Key Questions to Consider: These questions are only intended to stimulate discussion. Feel free to raise your own questions and provide any suggestions.

  1. How can DCF better serve Vermont families with children?
  2. How can AHS and DCF avoid duplication of administrative functions and fragmentation of services for individuals and families?
  3. Do AHS and DCF have the resources needed to be most effective? Are existing resources allocated properly? How could resources be better employed?
  4. What is the most efficient use of state resources in serving families? For example, should divisions and/or functions be separate or integrated? How can communication within DCF be improved to better serve families?
  5. How can DCF build stronger relationships between the families it serves and staff working with those families? For example, should enforcement capability be separated from day-to-day case management (that is, should sanction or removal powers be exercised by different people within the department)? Would that help or hinder the department?
  6. Are there particular laws, rules, or policies that should be changed to improve outcomes for families? If so, what are they?
  7. What is the agency or department doing well; are there existing areas of success the agency can and should build on?



Shining a Light on Poverty: Monthly Discussions to Take Place in 2014

Posted December 30, 2013

In honor of 50 years of community action in Vermont, the Office of Economic Opportunity, Department for Children and Families will be hosting a series of one-hour discussions on poverty every month in 2014.

The discussion series will take place on the following dates, be sure to mark your calendar:

  • January 30, February 27, & March 27
  • April 24, May 29, & June 26
  • July 31, August 28, & September 25
  • October 30, November 20, & December 18

Further details, including time and location, will be emailed to Agency of Human Services staff and partners a few weeks before each discussion and available online at


Stakeholders respond to GA Emergency Housing Rules changes

Posted July 8, 2013

The Vermont Department of Children and Families, Economic Services Division announced changes to the General Assistance (GA) Emergency Housing rules to go into effect on July 15, 2013. The new rules will drastically affect how vulnerable Vermonter’s access emergency motel vouchers. Housing and homelessness advocates fear that the new restrictions will leave many Vermonters with no place to go when shelters are full. The Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition has reached out to legislative leadership and the Shumlin administration to try to overturn the changes. Last week, Agency of Human Services Secretary Doug Racine convened a meeting  with housing and low-income advocates and homeless service providers to discuss the proposed changes. Racine promised to review changes to the GA rules to see if they could be modified and to increase collaboration with GA stakeholders.

Please let the Governor and the senators and representatives from your area know this is an unacceptable situation and ask them to help!

Changes to GA Emergency Housing Rules
GA Rules Legal Notice
H. 530 section E.321.1 – GA Emergency Housing

VAHC Letter to House Speaker Shap Smith & Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell
Link to Legislative Directory
Link to Governor’s website

Advocates have been featured in several media sources since the June 27 announcement:

Seven Days – 6/28/2013
Morningside Shelter Tent Drive Press Release – 6/28/2013
Brattleboro Reformer – 6/29/2013
WCAX – 7/1/2013
VTDigger – 7/2/2013


Measuring the need: Count of Vermont’s homeless helps refine services

Posted February 11, 2013

The Point-in-Time Count took place during the last Wednesday in January. The objective of the HUD-required count is to assess the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals on one night.

By: Matt Ryan, Free Press Staff Writer. Reposted from the Burlington Free Press, February 10, 2013. 

“Clipboard in hand, Stefanie Comstock called out to the folks lining the narrow, pale green corridor. They had come to the Salvation Army for dinner and she had come to count them. Specifically the people unlikely to be documented elsewhere during the annual point in time homeless count; the people she expected to spend the night outdoors, perhaps in a tent, or a car or an abandoned building.

While the guests chowed down on lasagna, Comstock and two colleagues from Burlington’s Safe Harbor Clinic went table to table. They didn’t take names, but they did take initials and birth dates, so as to avoid duplication in the final tally.

By dinner’s end, they had counted 41 people.

“A good number don’t know where they are staying tonight…”

Link to Full Burlington Free Press Article 

View PDF of Full Burlington Free Press Article


RFP – Family Supportive Housing Program

Posted February 7, 2013

Attention: Community Providers in Brattleboro, Burlington, and Rutland AHS districts.

The Agency of Human Services has issued an RFP for Family Supportive Housing. Applications are due no later than 4:00pm on April 2, 2013. Please see the link below for more information.

RFP – Family Supportive Housing 



State spending on hotels for the homeless doubles

Posted January 22, 2013

Morgan Brown, longtime advocate for the homeless, at a Statehouse protest. Photo by Roger Crowley

By: Alicia Freese. Reposted from, January 16, 2013. 

“The cost of Vermont’s temporary housing program for the homeless has doubled.

The Department of Children and Families, which provides emergency housing to eligible applicants for a limited period of time, has requested a budget adjustment of $2.2 million to prevent more Vermonters from becoming homeless. That’s on top of the $2 million lawmakers appropriated for the new program in last year’s appropriations bill.

The rising costs are “the caboose that is getting jolted because of a problem happening further up in the train,” said Angus Chaney, director of housing for AHS. The predicament, Chaney said, is that homeless shelters are filling up and affordable housing options are scarce. This means more people are placed in motels — a temporary and costly fix…”

Link to Full VTDigger Article 

View PDF of Full VTDigger Article