Dangerously low temperatures have prompted state officials to institute a number of special measures this week, including the opening of a temporary shelter in Rutland for Wednesday evening.
When existing shelters hit capacity during stretches of extreme cold, the Agency of Human Services generally provides homeless people with motel vouchers. But Sean Brown, with the Department for Children and Families, says the holiday timing of this week’s cold snap has required special accommodations.
“When there’s special events or other things going on, motel capacity gets stretched pretty thin, and we are concerned that we won’t have places for folks to go that are homeless,” Brown says.
Brown says a temporary cold weather shelter in Rutland, located at the Elk’s Lodge, on Pleasant Street, will ensure people without a home have a safe place to spend the night this week.
Brown says the state may need to open up a temporary shelter in Burlington as well, depending on the need. He says homeless people who need a place to stay can visit their local community action agency, or call 211 after hours, for information on where to find accommodations.
Vermont has also issued an emergency declaration that will allow it to temporarily suspend a federal rule limiting the number of hours fuel truck drivers can spend on the road.
Under federal highway safety laws, the drivers that deliver home heating oil can’t spend more than 10 hours a day on the road. Secretary of Transportation Joe Flynn says the state has decided to waive that rule, through Jan. 9, to ensure homeowners’ fuel tanks don’t run dry during the cold snap.
“Given frankly the dangerous temperatures that we are experiencing and will continue to experience, at least through the New Year’s holiday, we felt that it was the right thing to do,” Flynn says. “It was a reasonable request, and we felt it was the right thing to do.”
Flynn says the request for the emergency declaration came from the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association requested the emergency declaration. He says the waiver will allow drivers to make extended runs, which he says could be especially necessary with the holiday-shortened work week.
The 10-hour time limit was created as a federal safety precaution. But Flynn says the need for heat right now outweighs any risks that might come from lifting the 10-hour limit.