Homeless Vigil and Awareness Day — Jan. 10th 2013

Posted On February 4, 2013 By | No Comments on Homeless Vigil and Awareness Day — Jan. 10th 2013

Rita Markley and local activist, Morgan W. Brown joined homeless advocates on the steps of the Vermont Statehouse.

Every year in January, homeless service providers from across Vermont gather at the Statehouse to report to their representatives which strategies are working and which ones need work.

Together they make a case to the state’s Housing Committee to advocate for the strongest and most effective homeless state policy.  Take a look at the Homeless Awareness Day Album.

COTS Executive Director, Rita Markley, opened the Housing Committee meeting with testimony about the importance of prevention funding in making an impact on the homeless population.

Shelter is vital, yet prevention is key, and ultimately a less expensive solution.  On average, prevention costs about $45 a month compared with Emergency Assistance Motel stays, costing about $70 a night.

Rita also pointed to the success of Pathways to Housing‘s Housing First model, and their pilot program in the rural area of Vermont.  In their three years working with the chronically homeless population in Vermont, there has been an 87% housing retention rate for some of the hardest to house people — people who are usually endlessly shuffling in and out of shelter.

According to Rita, the Housing First model is a worthy investment because it is putting money into housing, a more sustainable solution.

“Homelessness should be brief and rare,” Rita asserted to the Housing Committee, adding that any policy that cannibalized prevention practices that are working would result in Emergency Assistance Motel budget expenses going way up.

COTS Program Director, Julia Paradiso, and COTS Housing Resource Center Coordinator, Jonathan Farrell, showed their support.

Rita also talked about the success of the COTS Canal Street Veterans Housing Program.  85% of graduates of the two-year program have paying jobs or are in higher ed. classes now.  The program is unique because it keeps veterans with their families in family units, allowing them to participate in the program without leaving the support of their family behind.

Jonathan Farrell, a Housing Resource Center Coordinator, spoke next.  He emphasized the importance of the  Housing Recovery Fund.  He reported data demonstrating the success of prevention and the need to provide people with second chances when it comes to acquiring housing.

Take a look at our HRC – Innovative and Creative Housing Solutions blog post for a deeper look at our homeless prevention data.

Jeanne Montross, the chair of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness and the Executive Director of H.O.P.E. (Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects), spoke next, explaining some of the complexities of homelessness and a need to keep the big picture in mind. Directing money into permanent housing, she went on to say, is vital and a cost the state will have to pay for in emergency shelter if people cannot attain affordable housing.

She also talked about the cycle of poverty in families.  Living poor, the family is in a constant state of crisis, and children can’t experience stability or learn as they develop.  Instead, they become trapped in that situation even as the grow out of childhood, the anxieties and stresses of their poverty permanently ingrained in the way they experience and interact with their world.

There is no end in sight for some families, and they cannot overcome their poverty in this economic climate — Jeanne Montross

In today’s housing market, the poorest of poor cannot get into housing, and they cannot sustain housing.  For these reasons, thinking about sustainability is vital. Linda Ryan, Executive Director of Samaritan House, spoke about how Vermont rental subsidies make a big difference in reducing motel stays, but currently the list for vouchers is closed.

Ryan explained that in an emergency, motels are useful, but the big picture problem with motels is the absence of case management and a connection to support services.  Without these resources, families coming out of Emergency Assistance Motel stays aren’t any better off than when they got there.  Motels are not sustainable, and they are much more expensive.  Diverting funds to sustainable things such as case management, apartments, and housing, is a much better investment.

All together, homeless service providers across the state agreed that case management services, closing the gap between income and housing costs, and permanent affordable housing solutions are key to reducing the number of homeless families and individuals in Vermont.

Categories: COTS Shelters, Events, Homeless Prevention, Homelessness, Veterans
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