Will Vt. hotels accept state vouchers for homeless?

RUTTLAND, Vato (WCAX) – Hundreds of homeless people are now eligible for 100-day shelter in Fairmont hotels under the state’s newly expanded emergency housing program, but can they get a room?

Under pressure from advocates — and extended help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency — the state announced last week that it would open the doors to its emergency hotel program, but the state says there are at least six times more people who need help than before the pandemic and in at least some of the hotels that have opened. Its doors last year are not ready to do that now.

A video on social media shows the state of the Holiday Inn in Rutland as the hotel was cleaning up from its participation in the state’s homeless hotel program. Hotel staff say rooms were badly damaged during the months when hotels were getting official vouchers to pay homeless people to live there.

Renovations are also underway at the Quality Inn in Rutland. The owner of the two hotels said he will not accept vouchers at this time and they are still working on a plan by next month.

“Please don’t house people here,” said Mary Ashcroft, chair-elect of the board of directors for Rutland Town. In a letter to Vermont DCF Commissioner Sean Brown, she said the board of directors asked the state to reconsider the decision to house the homeless at the Holiday Inn. Ashcroft says the town deprived the hotel of a liquor license and the hotel became an increasing burden on the police department. “We had to send police officers to respond to the Holiday Inn for things like drug overdoses, suspicious activity, and robberies in the adjacent Green Mountain Plaza.”

The state rolled back the hotel program in July with the intent of returning to a pre-pandemic system to offer emergency vouchers during the worst of winter weather. This has led to advocates lodging on the steps of state headquarters and pressing the state to continue housing up to 2,500 people without at least permanent housing for as long as federal funding for COVID relief remains available. “We are bringing down the very vulnerable Vermonters,” said Brenda Siegel, the activist who led the protest.

The state has extended the deadline to end the program twice, then announced last week that it will open the emergency voucher program regardless of weather conditions from November 22 and extend through March 1 next year.

“It was a great establishment. Right now, it’s going a lot in the wrong direction,” Ashcroft said of the hotel. She says people need accommodation, especially as the cold weather approaches, but some of those housed in the hotel need detour services that aren’t available At the hotel.” It shouldn’t just be stored somewhere. They should get the services they need to move into permanent housing for themselves and their families.”

While the new non-weather program begins on Monday, the bad weather policy went into effect on Friday, so people are being accommodated this weekend. In an email, state officials said they have found rooms for those who need them this weekend.

Related stories:

Many homeless Vermonters can return to the motels and hotels program

Rutland closes homeless hotel for law violations

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