[Hpn] Re: Budget ‘Band-Aid’ to Pat ch Homeless Policy Ills; 7Day s; Local Matters news sectio n; Burlington, VT; 12/12/2007

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@gmail.com
Wed, 12 Dec 2007 12:22:48 -0500


My blog post concerning the 7Days article can be found at:

~~~fyi:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
North American Homeless News Network (NAHNN)
*Must-Read* 7Days Article: Budget 'Band-Aid' to Patch Homeless Policy Ills:
http://nahnn.blogspot.com/2007/12/must-read-7days-article-budget-band-aid.html

On Dec 12, 2007 9:09 AM, Morgan W. Brown <morganbrown@gmail.com> wrote:
> -------Forwarded fyi-------
>
> --------------------------------------------------------
>
> Wednesday, December 12, 2007
> Seven Days
> [Burlington, Vermont; Local alternative weekly newspaper]
> Local Matters news section
> Budget 'Band-Aid' to Patch Homeless Policy Ills
> http://7dvt.com/2007/budget-band-aid-patch-homeless-policy-ills
>
> [print version forwarded]
>
> Local Matters
> By Mike Ives [12.12.07]
>
> VERMONT — Winter doesn't officially start until next week, but every
> homeless shelter in Chittenden County is already full, and
> emergency-fuel requests are twice what they were last year.
>
> Vermonters who can't afford rental apartments — or find a bed in
> shelters — have traditionally sought help through the state's
> Emergency/General Assistance fund [1], which pays for semi-permanent
> motel stays. Between 2006 and 2007, the number of households seeking
> EA-funded motels in Chittenden County increased from 370 to 774.
> Approximately 1100 children may have been affected.
>
> But the program is in jeopardy. Social-service providers recently
> learned that the fund's $150,000 budget will likely run out by the end
> of the month. They say EA/GA's budgeting snafu underscores disturbing
> flaws in Vermont's social-welfare system, and that policymakers aren't
> doing enough to help struggling Vermonters transition off welfare and
> into affordable housing.
>
> Rita Markley, executive director of Burlington's Committee on
> Temporary Shelter [2] (COTS), warns that the "sky is falling" on
> Vermont's low-income population this year. At a Monday press
> conference on homelessness at Burlington City Hall Auditorium, Markley
> exhorted Agency of Human Services [3] (AHS) Deputy Secretary Patrick
> Flood to fully fund the program through the end of this season.
>
> The EA/GA fund is "the very last strand [of the safety net] for people
> who have no other housing options," Markley insisted, rising from her
> chair to address Flood. "If there isn't room in the shelter, just
> imagine where these 774 families would go."
>
> "We need to restructure GA, period," Flood conceded to the
> 50-plus-person crowd. He expects to receive an additional $300,000
> from a state budget committee to fund the program.
>
> But in the lobby afterward, Markley said throwing cash at the program
> won't fix the problem. According to the 15-year COTS veteran,
> homelessness in Vermont has "mushroomed" while policymakers "keep
> ignoring and ignoring" it. Specifically, she thinks the state should
> provide more housing opportunities and make its "back-rent" program —
> which only offers rent-assistance grants to parents with minor
> children — more "flexible."
>
> As is, many people who need back-rent assistance don't qualify for it,
> Markley said. The state, which doesn't keep stats on the people it
> turns away from the back-rent program, under-spent its $577,000
> back-rent budget by almost half in 2006 and 2007— a sign of misguided
> social-welfare priorities, she suggested.
>
> "We could do significantly better with back rent," admitted Joseph
> Patrissi, deputy commissioner of the state's Economic Services
> Division [4]. The administrator stressed, though, that his department
> is doing something. It currently sponsors EA/GA "pilot" projects in
> Springfield, St. Albans and Morrisville that provide case-management
> services for "underlying issues" such as drug and alcohol abuse.
> Patrissi wants to bring the pilot to Burlington and Rutland.
>
> Markley is optimistic about Patrissi's plan, but wishes state
> officials would think more proactively. "Because of the expense of the
> EA motels," she suggested, "it's finally generated attention so that
> people are looking more systemically at what has caused the problem —
> and how to resolve it."
>
> Erhard Mahnke, coordinator of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition
> [5] (VAHC), takes a similar tack. "Part of the solution that AHS is
> supporting is a Band-Aid," asserted Mahnke, who thinks the back-rent
> program should also cover single individuals. "The bottom line is that
> . . . it's much more efficient and effective if you deal with things
> in a preventive way, rather than after the crisis has occurred."
>
> Last weekend, the Central Vermont Community Action Council [6] (CVCAC)
> in Morrisville was helping three separate homeless parties pay for
> local motels at $78 per night via funding from the United Way,
> according to CVCAC housing specialist Wendy Allen. On Monday morning —
> just as the homelessness conference in Burlington adjourned — one
> couple was forced to move from a motel into their car. The homeless
> woman "started a job today," explains Allen, "and I don't feel that
> she's going to be able to hold onto it." Allen speculated that her
> client will soon return to state welfare rolls.
>
> "It's this vicious cycle of setting people up to fail," said the
> housing specialist of Vermont's social-welfare system. "The low-income
> and the middle class are not able to sustain anymore — we're seeing
> more and more of that every day."
> Source URL:
> http://7dvt.com/2007/budget-band-aid-patch-homeless-policy-ills
>
> Links:
> [1] http://www.dsw.state.vt.us/Programs_Pages/Emergency%20Services/GA%20EA.htm
> [2] http://www.cotsonline.org/
> [3] http://humanservices.vermont.gov/
> [4] http://www.dsw.state.vt.us/docs/dsw2000.htm
> [5] http://www.vtaffordablehousing.org/about.php
> [6] http://www.cvcac.org/default.aspx
>
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>
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