[Hpn] Homelessness on the rise;Burlington Free Press;Vermont;9/24/01

Morgan W. Brown norsehorse@hotmail.com
Mon, 24 Sep 2001 12:43:18 -0400


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Monday, September 24, 2001
Burlington Free Press <http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com>
[Burlington, Vermont, USA]
Local News section
Homelessness on the rise

This is the first in a weekly series exploring selected social problems that 
are being addressed by agencies affiliated with the United Way of Chittenden 
County. The series coincides with the United Way's annual fall fundraising 

By Eve Thorsen

The number of homeless families in Chittenden County has risen dramatically 
in the last five years, and nowhere is that more evident than at the COTS 
Rental Opportunity Office in Burlington.

Coordinator Janet Green works with families to help them avoid homelessness, 
but often there's no quick fix.

"This summer I worked with a woman and her three children. There was no room 
at the shelter, so she had her children stay with different family members 
around the state at night, and she was sleeping in her car," Green said, 
recalling a station wagon packed with clothes and bags of the family's 
belongings. "She was also a working mom, so simultaneously while she was 
trying to find housing she was having to work."

It took a month for the family to find an affordable apartment.

"Relatively speaking, they found a house pretty quickly," Green said. "Often 
it can take around three months. There's less than a 1 percent vacancy rate 
for the whole city."

In 1995, COTS served 73 families. In 2000, that number more than quadrupled 
-- to 300.

Staff at the Committee On Temporary Shelter are bracing for an even worse 
situation following the World Trade Center tragedy, said COTS director Rita 

"We think the impact of the tragedy will extend far beyond New York as 
companies lay off workers and seasonal staff because of the reduction of 
tourists in the fall foliage season," Markley said. "We will feel that 
immediately in emergency services in Vermont, whether it's COTS or the Food 
Shelf, because the margin of savings people have is so slim. The cost of 
housing won't go down, but the wages to pay the rent might not be there."

About 12 percent of the costs for three key COTS programs are funded by the 
United Way of Chittenden County, an umbrella organization that raises funds 
and helps support programs at 31 agencies and partners in the county. The 
United Way recently launched its annual fund-raising campaign with a $3.75 
million goal. The campaign relies on employee pledges through individual 
company campaigns to generate 70 percent of that total.

At the root of the homeless problem is a lack of affordable housing combined 
with low-paying jobs, Markley said. A near-zero vacancy rate has helped push 
rents beyond the reach of low-income Vermonters, many of whom earn the 
minimum wage, $6.25 per hour. The hourly pay rate would have to be $11.91 
for people to be able to work 40 hours a week and afford a two-bedroom unit 
at fair market rent of $619. Nearly half the renters in the state cannot 
afford the fair market rent for a two-bedroom unit.

Statistics like that translate into lines of families waiting in Green's 

"For every one vacancy I have, I probably have close to 10 possible 
tenants," Green said. "It seems like the amount of referrals and drop-ins 
increases on a daily basis. Fortunately we have apartment owners calling 
with some vacancies, so that's helpful, but we could always use more."

Community focus

-- AGENCY: COTS -- Committee On Temporary Shelter
PROGRAMS: The Waystation, a 36-bed emergency shelter on Church Street; The 
Daystation, a drop-in center; The Firehouse Family Shelter, a 24-hour 
emergency shelter; Family Services Program to help families in transition. 
The Streetwork Program provides support services to support transition; 
Rental Opportunity Center; The Wilson Hotel, a 22-unit residence for poor, 
elderly and homeless; St. John's Hall, a residence with 18 single rooms and 
4 apartments for homeless and working poor; The Smith House, 2-bedroom 
apartments and 7 single rooms.

Service Statistics for the last 12 months: 1,600 people served; more than 
28,000 bed nights of shelter provided; 203 families helped in finding 
affordable housing; 140 local employers in network to increase job 
opportunities for homeless; 100 percent school enrollment rate for children 
in the shelter.

Families served: 73 in 1995; 300 in 2000.
ANNUAL BUDGET: About $1.8 million, of which $120,568 was provided by the 
United Way.
MORE INFORMATION: 864-7402 or visit www.cotsonline.org
CAMPAIGN: Runs through Nov. 16
GOAL: $3.75 million
HOW IT'S SPENT: 8 percent general and administrative expenses; 7 percent 
fundraising; 85 percent designated giving and member agencies.
INFORMATION: 864-7541 or visit www.unitedwaycc.org


**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**


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Morgan <norsehorse@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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