In A Renovated Burlington Motel, Group Aims To Improve Health And Reduce Homelessness

Jul 26, 2017

A repurposed motel in Burlington will soon be home to a dozen or more people struggling with chronic homelessness, the Champlain Housing Trust announced Tuesday.

The Bel Aire Apartments on Shelburne Road in Burlington are the result of a partnership between the University of Vermont Medical Center, which provided funding for the project, and the Champlain Housing Trust.

Michael Monte, the Chief Financial and Operating Officer at Champlain Housing Trust, said the hospital has a stake in ending homelessness because people without stable housing are more likely to experience health problems.

Monte says that even though the Bel Aire Apartments will provide housing for 12 to 15 people, the idea is to use a targeted approach to deal with the specific needs of chronically homeless people who often end up in hospitals because of a health problem but nowhere to go after that.

“It isn’t the only effort. It is addressing a specific sub-group,” Monte said of the Bel Aire Apartments. “And when you have these problems which are seemingly so large, what you really need to do is really take one particular part of the problem and break it down and provide a solution. There really was not an easier or better solution for folks who are coming out of some service in the hospital – for them to be anywhere else, and this really does the trick.”

The housing program isn’t designed to provide transitional housing for people who are homeless and recently left the hospital, Monte said – it’s designed to bring people out of chronic homelessness.

"There is some notion that's been going around now amongst the affordable housing community that what doctors need to do is prescribe a house, an apartment, a home for people as a first step to move through recovery and in order for their health to be strong and stable." – Michael Monte, Champlain Housing Trust

“There will be some turnover, but the idea here is to provide stability before people take the next step before more permanent housing,” he said.

The focus on homelessness is clear, but Monte said the hospital’s investment highlights the importance of housing in seemingly unrelated parts of people’s lives, like health.

“There is some notion that’s been going around now amongst the affordable housing community that what doctors need to do is prescribe a house, an apartment, a home for people as a first step to move through recovery and in order for their health to be strong and stable,” Monte said. “It is clear by the evidence that if anybody is homeless their health care suffers.”

In addition to helping the Champlain Housing Trust pay to buy and renovate the former motel, the UVM Medical Center is providing funding for case management and operations at the Bel Aire Apartments.