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Report to Governor Shumlin From the Council on Pathways From Poverty

Posted November 13, 2015

Yesterday, the Council on Pathways From Poverty delivered their annual report to the Governor. Below is an excerpt from a VT Digger article on the report, which highlights the need for affordable housing and includes some words from VAHC Coordinator Erhard Mahnke, who is the Chair of the Council’s Housing and Homelessness sub-committee:

Advocates are backing a hotel occupancy fee to help the state tackle homelessness and affordable housing issues.

In the Pathways from Poverty Council’s annual report to the governor, delivered Thursday, advocates recommended imposing a $2 per night fee on hotel rooms that would go to supporting efforts to reduce homelessness.

The report highlighted affordable housing as “key to the well-being of Vermonters.” It was one of the four major focuses for the 30-member council’s report, along with education, administrative systems and economic security.

The council proposes that the state curb the housing affordability crisis by making new investments in permanent low-cost housing, providing more rental assistance and increasing supportive services.

“One of the challenges for advocates historically has been pointing out where there are problems and not always coming up with a funding solutions,” Chris Curtis, co-chair of the council, said Thursday.

The state has “an affordable housing crisis on its hands,” Curtis said, and the fee could make a big difference for the state in addressing that, including by moving away from the emergency housing motel voucher program.

Meanwhile, the fee would largely be shouldered by tourists, and is “less than the cost of a cup of coffee at many of these establishments,” he said.

Pathways member Erhard Mahnke, of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, emphasized the report’s call for investment in constructing affordable housing. The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board has been underfunded in recent years, and “the chickens are coming home to roost,” he said. “We have a protracted affordable housing crisis.”

Linda Ryan, co-chair council and executive director of Samaritan House, a shelter in St. Albans, said Thursday that funding is critical to efforts to end family homelessness, and other major anti-poverty goals of the administration.

“We’re not going to do that unless we can raise some revenue,” she said.

Housing affordability is a major barrier to low-income Vermonters, she said. “As everyone knows, the wages are low and the rents are high,” Ryan said.

To read more of the article, click here. To read the full 23-page report to the Governor, click here.

 



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.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

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 http://www.vitlink.org/location 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 https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/L3J2T56. 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?

 

 



Governor’s Council on Pathways From Poverty Featured by NLIHC

Posted April 17, 2014

The Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition played an early role in the development and formation of the Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty.  The National Low Income Housing Coalition recently profiled the Council:                                                ___________________________________________________

When the 2014 Vermont State Legislative Session opened in January, advocates were pleased that Governor Peter Shumlin (D) was committed to addressing growing poverty in their state. After hearing from a diverse group of advocates, Governor Shumlin released an anti-poverty initiative in December 2013 that would sufficiently fund housing and safety net programs and increase their efficiency. The initiative also created the Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty to determine the nature and primary causes of poverty in the state, to review the extent to which public and private agencies are addressing poverty, and to make recommendations to local, state and federal governments, non-profit agencies, charities, and other businesses on actions that should be taken to respond to the crisis.  Erhard Mahnke, coordinator for the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition (VAHC), an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, was appointed to the council and chairs the subcommittee on housing and homelessness.

In mid-2013, housing, homelessness, domestic violence, legal aid and other advocates, met with the Shumlin Administration to express concern about shrinking federal resources and limited state funds, which have exacerbated homelessness and poverty in the state. Vermont is struggling with record homelessness as shelters reached capacity and the cost of motels and hotels to house people without shelter soared (see Memo9/6/13). Advocates were also concerned with the administration’s plan to cut the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit program, and to put hard time limits on participants in Reach Up, the state welfare to work program.

In September 2013, at Governor Shumlin’s request, advocates submitted recommended actions the administration should take immediately to help people with difficult living conditions. Among their top-tier priorities included were targeted, strategic increases for key public benefit programs including the state’s federal food assistance program (3Squares VT), General Assistance, Reach Up, mental health rental assistance vouchers, and full funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the entity that administers the state’s housing and conservation trust fund. Increased state funding for rental assistance, the Emergency Solutions Grant Program, childcare financial assistance, and job creation programs were suggested to further reduce poverty in the state. They also recommended regulatory and operational changes at the Vermont Agency of Human Services to help these programs work more effectively. Advocates also suggested that the Governor establish an advisory council on ending poverty to make further, long term recommendations to him and to work with his administration on their implementation.

Advocates were heartened by the Governor’s swift response to their concerns. The majority of their budgetary recommendations, mainly those pertaining to housing, homelessness, and childcare, made it into his FY15 budget as a part of his plan to address the poverty crisis. “At their best, our anti-poverty and housing programs make sure that all Vermonters have food and shelter, as well as the help, education and training to find good jobs,” said Governor Shumlin in a press release that outlined the proposals he embraced. “All of us need help in different ways and at different times in our lives. Together we will make sure the programs we support for these efforts are successful and productive.”

The Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty, created by executive order the same day the proposals were released, is made up of advocates from the broad spectrum of human services, including housing, homeless services (including formerly homeless persons), healthcare, corrections, private sector developers, domestic violence, women’s concerns, and child and family services. In his new leadership role, Mr. Mahnke will work to keep the council and state administration informed of affordable housing concerns and strategies that should be employed. In addition, Mr. Mahnke is working with advocates in the VAHC network to urge state legislators to adopt Governor Shumlin’s proposed budget. The Vermont House has already included funding for most housing and homelessness programs at the governor’s requested levels. The session is expected to adjourn in May.

“Governor Shumlin has been very supportive of affordable housing and homelessness, so the initiatives we fought against last year came as an unpleasant surprise and brought a major outcry of opposition from low income and housing advocates,” said Mr. Mahnke. “We’ve been extremely heartened by the Governor’s willingness to open lines of communication over the last nine months, embrace many of our recommendations, and create this new forum for dialogue, collaboration and make significant progress in alleviating poverty in Vermont.”

For more information, contact Erhard Mahnke, Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, at erhardm@vtaffordablehousing.org.

Read the article at NLIHC’s Memo to Members.