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Cold Weather Exemption for General Assistance and Emergency Assistance programs

Richard Giddings, Deputy Commissioner, DCF-Economic Services, 10/25/12

In harsh winter weather, eligibility for temporary shelter through Vermont’s General Assistance (GA) and Emergency Assistance (EA) programs will be relaxed to encourage persons who are homeless and without adequate financial resources to seek safe shelter. General and Emergency Assistance is only available to US Citizens and legal resident aliens.  An exception to this may be made to ensure the safety of children under 18 years of age. Effective Time Frame: Effective Immediately. Criteria for relaxing temporary shelter eligibility: Eligibility for temporary shelter will be relaxed when any of the following conditions exist – or are anticipated to exist within the next 12 hours – in the Vermont zip code where the homeless applicant is applying:

  1. Temperatures or wind chill less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Temperatures less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit with snow and/or freezing rain.

The National Weather Service website will be used to make this determination:


  1. The Community Action Program (CAP) or Vermont 2-1-1 will contact the emergency shelters in the AHS district where the applicant is applying to determine if there is available and appropriate capacity for the night. It is not appropriate for households with minor children to be placed in a “low-barrier” shelter with registered sex offenders, or with persons who are intoxicated or exhibiting violent behavior.

  2. If there is no appropriate emergency shelter capacity in the district, the CAP will assist the applicant in applying for GA/EA emergency housing. The Economic Services Division (ESD) or Vermont 2-1-1 will place the household overnight in a motel room, or (at the discretion of ESD, Vermont 2-1-1 and the local emergency shelter), pay to place a household which had been residing in emergency shelter into a nearby motel to make shelter space available for the applicant household.

  3. The Economic Services Division or Vermont 2-1-1 may choose to authorize temporary shelter on a daily basis or for multiple days if conditions warrant. The total amount of time authorized under this exception is not limited by the traditional number of days of temporary housing, but linked to the emergency conditions described above.

  4. ESD, 2-1-1 and local shelters will have flexibility when interpreting this exemption so as to best ensure the safety of persons who are homeless, whether in shelter or without a roof. Emergency shelters retain the right to refuse entry to persons who have violated shelter polices on violence, or to persons who pose a danger to themselves or others. Some persons may require alternative services appropriate to their circumstances, such as access to a public inebriate bed, hospitalization, treatment, or mental health crisis services.

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