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Homeless Children On the Rise in VT Schools

Posted February 2, 2015

Below is in an excerpt of an article published in the Rutland Herald discussing the increase in homeless children throughout the state of Vermont:

While the recession is officially over, many of its effects continue to be felt in Vermont, where rates of homeless families continue to rise.

For children of homeless families, continuing their K-12 educations can be an extraordinary challenge as they sometimes face long commutes while struggling with a chaotic life outside school that can involve children bouncing from a home to a hotel, shelter or outdoors.

According to annual data collected from school districts and supervisory unions by the Agency of Education, the number of homeless children in Vermont has risen 46 percent during the past five years, from 784 in 2010 to 1,145 in 2014.

Under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act — which guarantees education for homeless children — homelessness can be defined as living in a shelter, doubled up with another family, living in a hotel or unsheltered.

The law also counts “unaccompanied minors” — teens who have fled their homes and are staying with friends or families of friends.

“It’s been growing, not exponentially, but we get spikes,” said Mike Mulcahy, former state coordinator for homeless education for the Agency of Education and currently an interagency coordinator who works with the Department of Health and Department for Children and Families.

“When economies go down, homelessness goes up,” said Mulcahy, who also noted a spike in homeless youth following Tropical Storm Irene, when the number of homeless youth jumped from 915 in 2011 to 1,202 in 2012.

“It created a real surge in the number of students who became homeless,” Mulcahy said. “One school district went from five homeless students to 55 homeless students.”

To read the entire article click here.


WCAX Reports on Rise in Use of Motel Vouchers This Winter

Posted January 15, 2015

A recent report from WCAX indicates that the use of motel vouchers for the ‘cold weather exception’ program are on the rise. Below is an excerpt from the article:

Last year the Department for Children and Families spent just over a million dollars providing vouchers for the ‘cold weather exception’ program and applications for help are up.

DCF points to stats from the start of the winter season last year when nearly 3,100 adults and 550 kids used vouchers.

That’s up from about 1,850 adults and 225 kids during the same period in 2013.

DCF officials say the rise of using these vouchers is because of the increase in homelessness and the cost of living in Vermont. They tout screening measures aimed to cut down on program abuse.

“If we have some concerns that there are some inaccuracies or there’s something missing we have a process in place we’re we verify that information before either granting or denying that application,” said Sean Brown, DCF.

Organizations like COTS and Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity are working to help with the high demand for shelter. CVOEO is hoping to have the Ethan Allen Club in Burlington open by Feb. 9 as a temporary shelter this winter. That building would house up to 20 people at night, but when there’s no room at the shelters, CVOEO and COTS use the state voucher program.

“I don’t think anybody believes that spending $40 or $50 or $70 a night on a motel is a great investment. But until we have the alternative emergency options available you can’t really pull that out,” said Rita Markley, COTS executive director.

Because of the large increase in families with children using vouchers, DCF says they’re bringing it to the attention of the state Legislature, hoping to work on the issue.

To read the entire article click here and view the video coverage embedded below or in the link previously provided.


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?



Meeting on GA Housing Rules Changes on Tuesday, July 15 in Randolph

Posted July 10, 2014

Directly following next week’s Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness meeting there will be a special GA housing rules stakeholder meeting. The Department for Children & Families is preparing to amend the General Assistance temporary housing rules and would like feedback from the housing community on potential areas for change. Representatives of DCF’s General Assistance program will present an overview of some proposed areas of change to the rules.

VCEH’s monthly meeting will take place on Tuesday, July 15 and start at 10am and the GA housing rules meeting will start following regular VCEH business at 11:30am. Both meetings will be held at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph (Google Map).

Read more about the meeting and VCEH’s agenda for the day here.


Register Now for 2014 3SquaresVT Outreach & Policy Conference

Posted April 3, 2014

3SquaresVT, the largest federal nutrition program, provides benefits to 93,000 Vermonters.  On Thursday, May 29, 2014 a 3SquaresVT Outreach and Policy Conference will take place at the Red Schoolhouse at Vermont Technical College in Randolph. This conference will offer an opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of 3SquaresVT participation processes from the DCF food and nutrition team, learn about recent and upcoming federal and state policy changes, enhance outreach skills with media and messaging, network with colleagues from across the state, and participate in focused discussions with seasoned advocates.

Register online now!

A broad range of organizations and people are invited to attend including those from community action agencies, agencies on aging, food shelves, community meal sites, schools, health clinics and hospitals, shelters, veterans organizations, housing authorities, child care centers and more.

Agenda at a Glance

8:30 – 9:00        Registration & Refreshments
9:00 – 9:30        Welcome with Hunger Free Vermont and DCF
9:30 – 10:45      Workshop Session I (choose one to attend)

  1. 3SquaresVT participation process – with DCF
  2. Expand your outreach toolkit: Tips & tools to spread the word about 3SquaresVT with free earned media and social media
  3. Make the most of benefits: Important income considerations and deductions for families with children

10:45 – 11:00     Break
11:00 – 12:15     Workshop Session II (choose one to attend)

  1. 3SquaresVT participation process – with DCF (repeat)
  2. Breaking down barriers: How to address stigma and bust negative myths about 3SquaresVT
  3. Make the Most of Your Benefits: The medical expense deduction for seniors and people with disabilities

12:15 – 1:00    Lunch & Networking (lunch provided)
1:00 – 2:00      Outreach & Application Assistance Round Tables
2:00 – 2:15      Sharing Insights For Our Work
2:15 – 3:00      Q&A with DCF Experts
3:00 – 3:15      Closing: Thank You & Evaluation

The conference day is being coordinated by Hunger Free Vermont in collaboration with the Department for Children and Families and the statewide 3SquaresVT Work Group.

Conference Fee: There is a $10 non-refundable fee to attend, which includes a light breakfast and lunch. If you have any difficulties registering or the fee is a hardship, contact Hunger Free Vermont at 802-865-0255.

Questions about registration or the agenda?  Contact Angela or Faye at Hunger Free Vermont at and

Space is limited, so register today to guarantee your spot!


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


Emergency GA rule posted to DCF/ESD website

Posted August 2, 2013

The Department for Children and Families/Economic Services Division (DCF/ESD) has posted the revised Emergency rule, which went into effect on August 1, 2013, to its website: The new rule makes vouchers available to individuals who are 65 and older, have a child age 6 or younger, women who are in their third trimester of pregnancy, and individuals who have applied for or received SSI/SSDI. The rule also maintains the point system but lowers the eligibility threshold to 4 points for other vulnerable populations.

In addition, DCF/ESD has posted the proposed permanent rule to replace the emergency rule at the end of November, and a second, related proposed rule pertaining to the catastrophic eligibility criteria for temporary housing. The rule proposes to clarify catastrophic eligibility criteria and align rules with current department practice.

If you would like to testify at the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) on August 22 on the emergency rule, you need to contact Katie Pickens:

Katie Pickens, Committee Assistant
Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR)
State House – Montpelier 05633

Send comments to Erhard Mahnke, Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, at




DCF unveils new emergency housing proposal

Posted July 24, 2013

Vermont housing advocates met with officials from the Department for Children and Families yesterday to discuss revising the agency’s proposal that would limit access to emergency motel vouchers.  The original plan required Vermonters who had not experienced a catastrophic event to meet 6 points on a scale of vulnerability in order to become eligible for a motel voucher.

At yesterday’s meeting, DCF unveiled their new proposal which would maintain the point system, but lower the eligibility threshold to 4 points. Additionally, the plan makes vouchers available to individuals who are 65 or older, have a child age 6 or younger, women in their third trimester of pregnancy, and individuals who have applied for or received SSI/SSDI.

Advocates at yesterday’s meeting generally felt the new proposal was more fair and inclusive, and appreciated the opportunity to collaborate and provide input. Linda Ryan, Director of the Samaritan House in St. Albans, stated, “I think we are way ahead of where we were to begin with. You’ve done a tremendous job of listening to us and adapting.”

Coverage of the story in local media:

Link to Article, 7/23/2013, 7/23/2013

Fox44/ABC22 News, 7/23/2013

Seven Days VT – Fair Game, 7/24/2013 

Seven Days VT – The Scoreboard, July 26, 2013

Rutland Herald – July 28, 2013



VTDigger: State may pull back on new rules governing motel stays for homeless

Posted July 18, 2013

By Alicia Freese. Reposted from VTDigger, July 17, 2013.

The state is revamping a controversial proposal to limit emergency housing in motels for homeless Vermonters.

Commissioner David Yacovone says he is “guardedly optimistic” that the Department of Children and Families will be able to relax the rules that determine who among the state’s homeless can stay in motels when shelters are full.

The standards will still be more stringent than they’ve been in previous years — the Legislature lopped off a large amount from the motel budget — but DCF is revisiting its initial proposal for paring back the program.

DCF was poised to put a temporary fix in place. It had devised a point system, based on 11 categories of eligibility, that would have drastically cut back the number of people who would be eligible for motel vouchers.   

Advocates protested, arguing that the department’s approach would make it nearly impossible for anyone to qualify, and DCF has since backtracked. It pushed the deadline back for implementing new rules and scheduled several meetings for advocates to weigh in…”

Link to Full VTDigger Article 
View PDF of Full VTDigger Article


Rutland Herald: Vt. to cut motel stays for homeless

Posted July 15, 2013

Director of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition (VAHC) Erhard Mahnke and Co-chair of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness, Jeanne Montross, were both interviewed for an article that appeared in yesterday’s Rutland Herald discussing changes to the General Assistance Emergency Housing rules. The new rules will make it difficult for vulnerable Vermonters to qualify for motel vouchers as well as shorten their length of stay. The new policies were scheduled to go into effect today, July 15, but that date has been pushed back to August 1 thanks to the work of the VAHC and other housing and homelessness advocates who have spoken out against the new policies.

In response to the delay, DCF Commission David Yacovone stated, “We can’t walk away from the budget — it is the law — but if by working together we can make some changes that will serve more people, we will consider that.”

PDF of Full Rutland Herald Article



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