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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


New research shows rent is lower in nonprofit mobile home parks

Posted July 26, 2013

Research by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) shows that median nonprofit and cooperative lot rent for Mobile Home Parks (MHP) is less than for-profit lot rent.

The median for-profit MHP lot rent is $320 and the median nonprofit and cooperative MHP lot rent is $278; $42 or 13% lower than the for profit median, and $26 or 9% below the State Median.

Link to 2012 Mobile Home Parks Detail Report 

Link to PDF of 2012 Mobile Home Park Summary




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


Meeting dates announced for Reach Up Policy Work Group

Posted July 9, 2013

The Reach Up Policy Work Group will be meeting on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month in July, August, September, and October. The work group’s first meeting will be held this Thursday, July 11th from 9:00am-12:00pm at the VTC campus, Tafts Corners, Williston. Subsequent meetings will be at the AHS Secretary’s office at 208 Hurricane Lane. Specific details, including the participant list, will be posted prior to the first meeting. Meetings are open to the public and minutes will be posted . 

For more information on the meeting dates and times and meeting minutes, click HERE

Work Group membership



Fair Market Rents revised upward by 24% for Burlington-S. Burlington metro area

Posted May 3, 2013

By Leslie Black-Plumeau. Reposted from Housing Matters, April 30, 2013.

“HUD announced…that a recent in-depth survey revealed that rents for modest units in the greater Burlington area are 24% higher than originally estimated.  In October 2013, HUD set the monthly fair market rent for a one bedroom apartment in the greater Burlington area at $788, a surprising drop of more than $100 from the prior year’s level.

Since this decline was inconsistent with local data indicating rising–not declining–rents, VHFA and partner housing agencies encouraged HUD to conduct an intensive rent survey of the area.

This revision affects Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle counties…”


Times Argus Editorial – Too far a reach

Posted April 23, 2013

Editorial. Reposted from the Times Argus, April 21, 2013.

“Ordinarily, major reforms receive close attention from affected groups and from legislators keen to study a problem and examine solutions. But sometimes a governor will launch an initiative from within the inner sanctum of his administration, without warning or the kind of preliminary work that is designed to build support from the public and the Legislature. That is what has happened with Shumlin…

There was moving testimony in the House from people in the program about the difficulties they encounter in finding stable employment, housing, transportation and child care, and not for want of trying. Cutting off benefits could throw a small core of troubled families into chaos, introducing new instability among people struggling to get by…”

View PDF of Full Editorial


Noonmark Nonprofit Salary Survey

Posted April 15, 2013

Noonmark Nonprofit Service announces a nonprofit survey of nonprofit compensation and benefits. The survey will provide Noonmark with very important data and help nonprofit organizations remain competitive and current.

Link to the Survey

Please contact Jane Van Buren with questions at or 802-324-1724


Why Foreclosures in Vermont Are Up

Posted March 14, 2013

By Kevin J. Kelley. Reposted from Seven Days, March 13, 2013.

“Even as the national foreclosure crisis appears to be easing, Vermont is experiencing a spike in legal filings by mortgage lenders seeking to take title to homes whose owners have fallen behind in their payments.

Vermont’s foreclosure rate has ranked as one of the lowest in the country in the years since the 2008 financial meltdown put millions of Americans in jeopardy of losing their homes. Today, the state is an outlier once again — for the opposite reason. Nationally, foreclosure filings fell by 28 percent last year; in Vermont, they increased 33 percent…”

Link to full Seven Days article
PDF of full Seven Days article


Times Argus Editorial: Shredding the safety net


By: Margaret K. Nelson. Reposted from the Barre Montpelier Times Argus, March 10, 2013.

When President Clinton promised to “end welfare as we have come to know it” and signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act into law Aug. 22, 1996, he initiated a policy experiment, an experiment with the lives of low-income parents (mostly women) and their children. 

Almost 17 years later, the part of that experiment that had to do with time limits for lifetime welfare receipt has proven to be a significant failure.

To be sure, time limits made good headlines because they appealed to both liberals and conservatives who believed that the right combination of incentives and sanctions would encourage employment over welfare reliance. But time limits have made terrible social policy.

No combination of incentives and sanctions can create jobs where no good or accessible ones exist; no combination of incentives and sanctions can reduce the real, concrete barriers to employment many individuals experience.

Gov. Peter Shumlin now proposes to inaugurate this social policy in Vermont by ending welfare benefits after three years and instituting a lifetime maximum of five years. This would bring us in line with other states.

It would also jeopardize the well-being of thousands of Vermonters. Indeed, just last year, a report from the Agency of Human Services acknowledged that eliminating assistance for the few families that did exceed a 60-month limit on receipt of welfare would leave “families destitute and at risk and … create a large hole in the fabric of Vermont’s safety net for those most in need” because those families have “three times as many barriers to gaining self-sufficiency as the general Reach Up caseload population.”

Just to be clear: The Reach Up program that Gov. Shumlin is proposing to limit is by no means a free ride. About a third of Reach Up participants already work or comply with other requirements to get the meager benefits they receive. Many others are training or pursuing educational goals. Others have a deferment to care for an infant, or another family member requiring care, or due to disability — essentially meaning they cannot (and are not required to) work for a period of time.

The data show that arbitrary time limits do not help any welfare recipients — whether they are currently employed, in training or educational programs, or deferred for the time being. A long series of studies, from a broad variety of agencies, has demonstrated that time limits have negative consequences. Recipients pushed off welfare by time limits land in jobs that are less durable and less remunerative than are found by those who leave voluntarily; time-limit leavers are also more likely than voluntary leavers to experience a worsened state of financial well-being.

Most recently, and of perhaps the most direct relevance to Vermont, a new report from the state of Maine documents the “severe hardships” families endure when arbitrary time limits are imposed on temporary cash assistance, such as that now provided by Vermont’s Reach Up program. As is the case in other states, these hardships include food insecurity, housing destabilization and utility shut-offs.

To compound the probable injury, Gov. Shumlin has also proposed to reduce the amount of state dollars spent to provide low-income, working Vermonters with tax credits under the earned income tax credit program, a program that has been hailed by many as the most effective anti-poverty policy that exists.

Because it increases the ability of workers in low-paying jobs to support themselves and their families, it is of special importance to working Vermonters as they seek to transition off welfare.

Vermonters are known for their common sense and compassion. We should invest in programs that work and that help Vermonters get back on their feet. Placing arbitrary time limits on temporary cash assistance is proven not to work and is at odds with our instincts for common sense and compassion.

To be sure, the governor has proposals to help the low-income, working population, through bolstering the funding for child care subsidies. But that bolstering will be of little help on a cold night when the fuel runs out.

PDF of full Times Argus article


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Assault on the poor

Posted March 12, 2013

Editorial. Reposted from the Barre Montpelier Times Argus, February 28, 2013.

The Vermont Legislature is facing a difficult challenge this year in charting a course that diverges in significant ways from the program offered by the governor whom they had considered an ally.

It is not clear that anyone has an explanation for Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposals that seem to represent an outright assault on the poor. The demands of the budget don’t explain it. There are other ways to balance the budget. The quest for program efficiency doesn’t explain it. Shumlin’s proposals promise greater chaos and inefficiency.

Set aside the explanation for a moment and consider the ways that Shumlin’s program threatens the well-being of low-income residents. His attack has two components.

First, he intends to strip away state support for the earned-income tax credit, which is crucial income support for working Vermonters. He plans to use the savings to broaden access to child care and early childhood education. It is a worthy goal, but it comes at the cost of undermining one of our most effective anti-poverty programs. Workers who have no use for a child care benefit but who see their income support decline will be the ones who suffer most directly.

The second prong of Shumlin’s attack comes in his plan to impose time limits on the state’s Reach Up program. At present Reach Up serves about 6,500 low-income families, often single women with children. The program combines financial support with the assistance of a case worker to help the recipient put together a plan to find employment.

Time limits on welfare have as their justification the idea that unless they are kicked off the welfare rolls, recipients will languish in a state of dependency. The record in Vermont shows this is not the case.

Fifty-three percent of people in the program graduate to employment within 12 months. People want to find work. The median time people are in the program is 18 months. Of the 6,500 families in the state program, only 270 families have been receiving benefits for five years.

Shumlin’s proposal would create a time limit of three years. Participants who hit that limit would be forced off the program. If they have not found a job a year later, they would be allowed back in the program for another year, after which they would be booted off again. After another year searching for a job, they would be allowed back in the program for a final year. In all they would have 60 nonconsecutive months of benefits.

Of immediate concern is what would happen this October if the Legislature were to pass Shumlin’s proposal. At that point 1,188 families will have hit the 36-month wall and will immediately be without Reach Up support. The potential for family chaos and hardship is significant, all of which would serve as an additional impediment to solving the employment problem.

Advocates for low-income Vermonters say that Maine, which has an arch-conservative governor, imposed time limits on its welfare program, and the result was the sudden expulsion of 4,000 families from the program, many of whom had to resort to emergency general assistance, which meant the state did not save as much money as it was hoping to save.

Shumlin is no arch-conservative. It is hard to see why he would seek to introduce hardship among people who already have their hands full — raising kids, keeping a car running, finding work, finding housing. Some Reach Up participants fear that if they are kicked out of the program, they will lose their subsidized housing. Shumlin’s proposal could begin a spiral downward for many people.

Shumlin’s welfare reform is expected to save $6 million the first year and $7.2 million the second year. It’s not worth the hardship it would create. Reach Up is working. It is helping Vermonters with the job training and support they need to move from dependency toward self-reliance. Vermont is not so hard-pressed it needs to unravel its successful programs.

As lawmakers puzzle out Shumlin’s motives, they may wonder if he is trying to burnish some sort of conservative or moderate political profile, in the manner of Howard Dean. It’s not a good enough reason. 

Link to full Times Argus article 


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