The Point in Time Count is an annual census of the homeless population conducted on a single night in January. It aims to measure the number of folks who are literally homeless on that night – in emergency shelters, camping, in transitional housing, or on motel vouchers – in order to measure progress made from year to year towards eradicating homelessness. Over the past three years, Chittenden County has now seen a 45 percent reduction in the number of folks who are literally homeless, and a 56 percent reduction in the number of chronically homeless Burlingtonians. Despite this year’s 12 percent decline, there were still more than 300 people in Chittenden County alone who were without a home on the night of January 24th.
“Whether they have an address or not, these are our neighbors,” said Chittenden County Homeless Alliance Co-Chair Erin Ahearn of the Community Health Center of Burlington. The Chittenden County Homeless Alliance is comprised of a wide coalition of organizations, from the Chamber of Commerce to UVM Medical Center to shelter providers and mental health agencies, who have each made a commitment to eradicating homelessness in Chittenden County.
When asked if it is realistic to expect that we should be able to completely eradicate homelessness, Champlain Housing Trust’s Margaret Bozik, the CCHA’s other Co-Chair, stated, “The goal is to get as close to zero as possible, and then make any incidence of homelessness as brief as possible by getting those people the services that they need.”
Mayor Miro Weinberger hailed the numbers as a testament to the commitment of the broad spectrum of organizations working in collaboration towards this common goal. He cited the recent change to a “Housing First” approach where people are first and foremost found a home to be in, and then matched with wrap-around services to meet their other needs subsequently. Mayor Weinberger specifically cited the Winter Warming Shelter as an important step towards serving those who fall into homelessness, and stated that the City is looking for funds to make the shelter available year-round. He concluded his remarks by underscoring the importance of additional funds to support low-income housing construction, pointing to the $35 million bond currently under consideration by legislators in Montpelier.