SOUTH BURLINGTON – April 20, 2016 – A year after establishing a commitment to end family homelessness in Vermont by 2020, Gov. Peter Shumlin today announced a 28 percent decline in homelessness in the last year and issued a new Executive Order to increase access to affordable housing. The Order calls for owners of housing that receive state funds to make available at least 15 percent of their portfolio of housing units to Vermonters experiencing homelessness. By aligning supportive services, rental subsidies, and state investments in affordable housing, the State and private partners are working to ensure a continued focus on assisting vulnerable Vermonters.
“Vermont is a special place, a place where we take care of each other and with this Executive Order we are solidifying, formalizing and building upon the good work that has been done,” said Gov. Shumlin. “This Executive Order is taking a smarter, more cost effective approach to ending Homelessness in Vermont.”
The announcement comes as evidence is growing that the state’s focus to end homelessness is paying off. The recently released Annual Point in Time Count (PIT) Report shows for a second year in a row that the number of homeless Vermonters has declined. The 2016 Report showed an impressive 28% decline in the total number of Vermonters experiencing homelessness compared to the 2015 count.
“These results are a testament to the efforts, innovation and partnership of State Agencies, our homelessness service providers and housing managers working towards a common goal of ensuring every Vermonter has a safe place to call home,” said Noelle MacKay, Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development.
Not having a secure place to call home can impact all aspects of a family’s life and it is critical that Vermont continues to focus on this issue. “It’s hard to stay positive, work full time & raise a family without a home, ” said Summer Rivers, mother of three who works full time in Addison County. “The Executive Order will broaden the opportunity for me to find our own home.
As with many other states in the country, Vermont has experienced a growing incidence of homelessness over the past 30 years, which intensified during and immediately after the great recession. In 2015, Governor Shumlin and Agency of Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen announced a statewide initiative to end child and family homelessness by 2020. The three-part strategy includes adopting the national “Family Connection” framework, braiding supportive services and rental assistance, and constructing and rehabilitating affordable rental housing. This new Executive Order will provide an important tool for achieving the goal of ending family homelessness by 2020 and all homelessness thereafter.
“Addressing homelessness requires everyone working toward the same goal and with our nationally recognized service and affordable housing providers we can create the support needed to help folks be successful” said Agency of Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen.
The Governor made the announcement outside of Beacon Place apartments, a collaborative project between Champlain Housing Trust, Burlington Housing Authority and Safe Harbor Health Clinic to convert a former motel in South Burlington into 19 permanently affordable housing units for the homeless. Residents of the apartments will be connected to supportive services to ensure success in transitioning out of homelessness and maintaining permanent housing.
“The Governor’s focus on eliminating homelessness is welcome, and we will continue to do all we can to be a partner in meeting this goal,” said Michael Monte, chief operating and financial officer of the Champlain Housing Trust and member of the Governor’s Pathways from Poverty Council. “Housing families and individuals is not only morally the right thing to do, it will also have significant impact on our communities’ health, the ability of children to learn and the productivity of our workers.”
The Executive Order can be found at: http://governor.vermont.gov/executive_orders. More information on the 2016 Point in Time Count can be found at: http://helpingtohousevt.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/2016VTPITREPORTFULL.pdf