While the number of homeless people in Vermont went up from 1,160 to 1,454, the number of “unsheltered” homeless Vermonters (those who aren’t in emergency shelters or transitional housing) went down from 223 to 184.
With decreased federal assistance – Department of Children and Families Commissioner Dave Yacavone said Vermont lost 774 Section 8 vouchers – state and local services have to do more to keep up.
One of those services is the John Graham Shelter in Vergennes, which opened additional space this year. Director Elizabeth Ready says the new transitional housing facility is already occupied.
“We’re also seeing people staying for longer periods,” Ready said. “An average of 60 days, people are staying at the shelter, and we used to see people staying like 21 days.”
The federal report comes after Ready and other community representatives gave Gov. Peter Shumlin a set of recommendations for how the state can help bring down the number of homeless Vermonters.
The group asked Shumlin to double the amount the state is spending on its own housing voucher program, which subsidizes housing costs for low-income Vermonters. That program is new under Shumlin and currently has a budget of $500,000.
Another Shumlin administration program gives $3 million to community organizations around the state for use in their efforts assist impoverished Vermonters.
Yacavone said state data indicates that the number of homeless people in Vermont’s shelters has been relatively stable over the past two years. Regardless of the trends, he said, homelessness is a big problem in Vermont.
“Whether it’s a 25 percent increase or not, that’s a real problem,” he said. “If you’re one of those people, you’re struggling.”
Another problem, Yacavone said, is the number of homeless families with children in Vermont. The new report said the number of “households” with children that are homeless is up from 188 last year to 269 this year.
“Over 800 children were in a shelter [over the course of] last year,” he said, “so this is a serious problem, no doubt about it.”