[Hpn] State brings housing initiative to Bennington; Rutland Herald; 3/23/2008
Morgan W. Brown
Sun, 23 Mar 2008 04:25:08 -0400
Vermont Agency of Human Services (AHS) Field Services:
The Field Services Division was created in 2004 as a result of the AHS
Reorganization to maximize the effectiveness of the human services
system in each region of the state. The Division's scope covers the
entire Agency of Human Services, including services provided by
private designated and contracted organizations. An AHS Field
Director has been established in each of the 12 AHS districts of the
state to unify human services and to build a system focused on
excellent customer service, the holistic needs of individuals and
families, strength-based relationships, and improving results for
The needs of individuals and families for affordable, temporary and
emergency housing is significant. In 2006 and 2007, over 50% of Field
Services direct service dollar allocations went to support the
immediate housing needs of families to prevent displacement,
re-incarceration, child custody and a negative impact on the overall
health and well being of families. Direct service dollars prevented
many families from becoming homeless and requiring more intense and
costly intervention from AHS. Additionally, Field Services is
developing General Assistance (GA) pilot projects to test innovations
that mitigate poverty and serve applicants more effectively than
currently served with the same amount of General Assistance funds. In
2008, AHS introduced the HousingNow Initiative, a project to prevent
the loss of housing and alleviate homelessness by coordinating
services and support for tenants and landlords, and by creating
community teams to address long term housing solutions.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Southern Vermont News section
State brings housing initiative to Bennington
March 23, 2008
By PATRICK McARDLE Staff Writer
BENNINGTON – The state is launching a new initiative to forestall the
growing problem of homelessness.
The Agency of Human Services is taking a new tack to alleviate
homelessness as a recession looms and Vermont's affordable housing
It is unveiling the "HousingNow Initiative," which is designed to
bring together housing advocates, housing providers and residents
through a series of presentations around the state. Meetings have
already been held in Barre, Rutland, and St. Johnsbury.
The latest session was held on Friday in Bennington.
About 50 people, including landlords and representatives of state or
charitable organizations that work with homeless people or those who
are at risk of losing their homes, came to the Second Congregational
Church in Bennington on Friday to discuss the state's efforts to help
people with housing.
Vermont Agency of Human Services Deputy Director Patrick Flood said
the goal of the meeting was the basis of all his agency's efforts.
"We can't do our work, we can't deliver the services we do if folks
don't have a place to live. It all starts there," he said.
In Bennington County, the problem of homelessness is growing.
Kendy Skidmore, executive director of the Bennington Coalition for the
Homeless, said that while Bennington County had the third largest
population of homeless last year, after Chittenden and Rutland
counties, early reports indicate Bennington may have surpassed
In 2007, Bennington County had almost 270 homeless. Skidmore said the
population appears to be about 360 so far this year. Skidmore warned
that the numbers may be low because some agencies that had reported on
the homeless population in 2007 were not reporting this year and
schools that counted homeless students did not include the rest of a
student's family members in its totals.
Charles Gingo, field director for the Agency of Human Services in
Bennington County, said the purpose of Friday's meeting was to look
Some local attendees complained about the money spent on temporary
housing in motels because it's expensive and provides very little
return on investment. State agencies in Bennington County have spent
$16,000 since last June on hotels.
Other counties are stretching their money by finding landlords who
allow them to guarantee a security deposit or a final month's rental
payment. It's less expensive than paying for a rental property because
the money isn't always actually spent, and it's more likely to result
in a more permanent solution than paying for a room in a motel.
Other suggestions from Skidmore were appointing one person or an
office of people in Bennington County to provide a single point of
contact; providing a security fund that would make landlords more
comfortable with "risky" tenants; and teaching people how to rent
successfully in an agency-owned building before putting them in
Ed Bove, executive director of the Regional Affordable Housing Corp.
of Bennington County, said he and other landlords would like to see
training for tenants in order to avoid the legal costs of eviction and
recovering back rent while paying for a unit that's been trashed.
"It's almost better to have an empty unit than to rent to risky
tenants," he said.
Peter Cross, another local rental property owner, said it was
difficult to keep rents affordable because of increases in heating
fuel costs and taxes. Cross also complained that his property
assessments continued to rise even as he kept rents – and therefore
the income generated by the property – low.
Bove and Cross agreed that it would be helpful to have someone who
could keep them in contact with a tenant when he or she is in
financial distress. Improved communication can cut down on evictions,
which many agency employees pointed out, often occur when the problem
become too difficult to resolve.
Flood said there may be other tools available soon, including a
general assistance pilot program that the Legislature had agreed to
expand to Rutland and Burlington, which he hopes will be made
available to the whole state.
Contact Patrick McArdle at firstname.lastname@example.org
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