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Seven Days Profiles Harbor Place, Recent Homeless Family

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.

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Please visit our new Housing & Homelessness Alliance of Vermont website at www.hhav.org!

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