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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

 



ICYMI: Burned Out – Vermont’s Apartment Fires

Posted August 27, 2013

The other week Vermont Public Radio ran a series of reports concerning issues surrounding apartment building fire regulations.  Ensuring apartments meet basic requirements for health and safety is a priority of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition.  In particular, VAHC has a long history of working on issues concerning fire safety.  Check out the reports below as VPR looks at the regulations, reconstruction and the people affected by apartment fires in Vermont.

 

 



TIMES ARGUS – Counting our homeless: Vermont struggles to pinpoint needs

Posted July 30, 2013

By Eric Blaisdell. Reposted from the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, July 28, 2013.

“It’s anyone’s guess how many people are actually homeless in Vermont.

They aren’t exactly lining up to be counted, and the ones who have been identified represent only a fraction of the total homeless population.

The lack of reliable data has undermined the efforts of advocates for the homeless while providing political cover for policy makers, experts in the field say.

Moreover, the incomplete count has made it more difficult to secure adequate funding to combat the problem, and direct aid to where it’s needed most.

However poor the data, the problem is undeniably severe.

Surveys of the homeless population show a sharp climb in recent years, coinciding with the onset of an economic recession that began taking its toll in 2008. Tropical Storm Irene dealt another blow in 2011, when residents of devastated communities lost access to shelter…”

PDF of Full Times Argus Article

 



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

 



Changes to 2012 VT Access Rules open for public comment

Posted

The Vermont Access Board invites public comment on changes to the 2012 Vermont Access Rules. The rules effect how new housing is designed and built and focuses on accessibility and safety standards in new construction.  These rules are divided into 13 Chapters to coincide with the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards and the ADA Accessibility Guidelines.

Please send comments or questions to Councilmember Bob Patterson, Division of Public Safety at robert.patterson@state.vt.us or Caitlin Corkins, Department of Housing and Community Development representative to the Access Board at 802-828-3047 or caitlin.corkins@state.vt.us. The comment period is open until September 27, 2013. 

View Annotated VT Access Rules

 

 



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

 



IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: St. Albans Messenger – City School’s revolving door, Moving has consequences for all

Posted July 15, 2013

This article, which appeared in the St. Albans Messenger in May 2013, describes the link between students who relocate from school to school and lower academic achievement. Families that face housing insecurity tend to move with greater frequency, making it difficult for youth to establish connections within a school community.

By Michelle Monroe. Reposted from the St. Albans Messenger, May 13, 2013.

Link to Full St. Albans Messenger Article

 



One Vermont Town Fights a Farm to Improve Housing for Migrant Workers

Posted

By Kathryn Flagg, July 10, 2013

“When they’re not milking cows, many of Vermont’s estimated 1500 undocumented migrant farmworkers dwell in shabby mobile homes or cramped RVs, with the shades drawn against prying eyes.

Workers rarely speak out about poor housing conditions for fear of being fired — or deported. And local officials typically don’t get involved in farmworker housing disputes.

But in Salisbury, town officials have made the unusual choice to intervene in a case of second-rate worker housing. At a dairy farm owned by Randy and Jean Quesnel, two Latino farmworkers have been living in filth for years…”

Link to Full Seven Days Article 

PDF of Full Seven Days Article

 

 

 



Rutland Herald: Vt. to cut motel stays for homeless

Posted

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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