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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.

 



Seven Days Profiles Harbor Place, Recent Homeless Family

Posted December 18, 2013

Kathryn Flagg for Seven Days has written a new article on Harbor Place.  The report highlights the story of the Sweeney’s, a family who recently stayed at the new emergency housing facility purchased and opened by Champlain Housing Trust.  More from the article:

The practice of housing Vermonters in motels, when homeless shelters are full, is a controversial one: The emergency-assistance program has grown steadily more expensive in recent years; in the last fiscal year, it cost the state $4.2 million, prompting officials to tighten eligibility. Advocates for the homeless argue against drastic cuts to the program. Until the state has better safety nets in place, they say, the motels are an important last resort for people who have nowhere else to sleep.

No one is saying it’s an ideal solution. But that’s where Harbor Place — formerly the Econo Lodge in Shelburne — comes in.

“We thought, ‘There’s a better way,’” said Chris Donnelly, director of community relations at the Champlain Housing Trust. So in late October, the trust purchased the 59-room motel for $1.85 million, financing the majority of that purchase with a loan through the Vermont Community Loan Fund — the largest in VCLF’s history…

The change is more than cosmetic. Security cameras were installed earlier this month. New placards posted around the motel advertise the facility’s rules, including a ban on visitors after 8 p.m. It’s quiet, and the Sweeneys like the fact that a guard roams the property until midnight. Neighbors stop by with baked goods, and the former lobby is occasionally stocked with donated clothing and boots.

But arguably the most important change is that Harbor Place brings caseworkers directly to “guests” at the motel. The goal isn’t simply to give families and homeless individuals a warm and safe temporary room; it’s to connect them with other services and programs that can get them out of the motel and back on their feet…

In November, Harbor Place’s first month of operation, the shelter housed 128 people — including individuals and families. The State of Vermont guarantees to pay for at least 30 of the motel’s 59 rooms every night, but at an average rate of $38 a night, it’s a better deal than what the state pays at other motels around Chittenden County. The voucher limits a family’s stay to 28 days, but Harbor Place allows guests to extend that if they pay their own way and are actively working with a caseworker. Harbor Place also takes in families or individuals referred by Fletcher Allen Health Care or the HowardCenter.

Department of Children and Families Deputy Commissioner Richard Giddings called the Champlain Housing Trust a “solid partner,” with whom the state is making significant strides to address the costs of homelessness.

“They’re under a lot of pressure to do things differently,” said Donnelly of the state. “But you can’t just flip the switch overnight.”

Read the full article, and learn of the Sweeney family’s experience at Harbor Place, over at Seven Days, or here in PDF.

 



GA Rules Hearings on Friday

Posted September 18, 2013

There are two hearings on Friday, September 20 in Waterbury on the General Assistance rules.  The first hearing will cover the GA Emergency Housing for Vulnerable Populations which will start at 10:00 AM.  The second hearing will cover General/Emergency Assistance Temporary Housing in Catastrophic Situations which will start at 11:00 AM.

Both hearings will be held at St. Andrews Church, 109 South Main Street, Waterbury, VT.

Contact Heidi Moreau of the Department for Children and Families, Agency of Human Services for more information by phone at 802-595-9639 or via email.

See also: Proposed Rules

***Update: The Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition submitted comments on the proposed GA rules after this meeting.  Read them here (PDF).***

 



Update on Emergency Housing Rules Changes

Posted September 4, 2013

On August 22 the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (LCAR) approved revisions the Department for Children and Families (DCF) made to its controversial proposed changes to Emergency Housing assistance.

Early this summer low-income advocates and homeless service providers were dismayed by changes put forth by DCF.  Those on the front lines, who would be most affected by the changes, were not given any notice or provided any consolation about the new restrictions and the potential impact they would have on individuals and their communities.

The original changes would have instituted a six point system to determine those eligible for assistance.  These changes would have meant some of the most vulnerable Vermonters would potentially not be eligible for Emergency Housing assistance, including individuals 65 or older, SSI and SSDI recipients, families with a child under 6, and women in their third trimester of pregnancy.

Those individuals, whose physical health or safety are most at risk, will continue to be qualified to receive Emergency Housing assistance under the revised rules endorsed by LCAR.  The new rules will keep in place a point system to determine eligibility for those outside of the most vulnerable categories – individuals will now need to meet four criteria out of eight categories to be eligible for an Emergency Housing motel voucher.

“I want to express appreciation for the changes that were made,” Erhard Mahnke of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition told the rules panel.  “They were significant.”

Nonetheless VAHC and other housing advocates in the state have expressed concern over a number of the changes.  Significantly a rule that requires Emergency Housing applicants’ to pay 50 percent of their gross monthly income toward their emergency housing costs.

“I was disappointed that they [LCAR] didn’t object to it,” said Joe Patrissi of Northeast Kingdom Community Action.

Having people find permanent housing is the goal, a 50 percent income requirement can increase the difficulty for individuals to save enough for a security deposit and first month’s rent.

“If you are spending more than 30 percent of your disposable income, you are in an unsustainable situation,” Mahnke said.  “You don’t have enough resources for other necessities.”

While approving the emergency rule, members of LCAR seconded advocates’ concerns about this and several other new provisions.

The new rules will be in effect to the end of November, when they will be replaced by permanent rules.  VAHC and other advocates hope to work with the Shumlin Administration to make further changes before the permanent rules are implemented. The Legislature will also likely again revisit Emergency Housing rules in the future.

In the News: VTDigger (PDF); Vermont Public Radio (PDF); Burlington Free Press (PDF)

Previously: Stakeholders respond to GA Emergency Housing Rules changes

 



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 VTDigger.org Article, 7/23/2013

WCAX.com, 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

 

 



Burlington Free Press: Point system for the homeless would limit motel stays

Posted July 23, 2013

Media coverage of the changes to the General Assistance Emergency Housing Rules continues this week in the Burlington Free Press. Yesterday’s article focuses on the proposed point system, which would require Vermonters to meet 6 points on a scale of vulnerability in order to be eligible for a motel voucher.

The new rules were scheduled to go into effect last Monday, July 15, but that date has been pushed back to Thursday, August 1 because of the work of housing advocates across the state. Advocates continue to meet with state officials this week in an attempt to revise the changes to better meet the needs of vulnerable Vermonters.

Link to Full Burlington Free Press Article
PDF of Full Burlington Free Press Article

Link to USA Today Article, July 23, 2013

Illustration by Abby Westcott

 



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

 



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


 



General Assistance Housing program – Update

Posted January 24, 2013

The 2012 legislature called for the Agency of Human Services to report back on the GA Housing program and provide a summary and recommendations for the future of the program. These are detailed in the Executive Summary. The General Assistance (GA) Housing program memo details the new focus for the Housing program redesign so that community partners and organizations working to address and end homelessness can strategize and plan. The program was adapted after reviewing stakeholder’s input which provided insight on what wasn’t working with the GA Housing Program and ways to strengthen it. Please see attached memorandum for the updated GA Housing program initiatives.

GA Housing Program Memo

Click HERE to view full report