MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) – An 84-day emergency housing benefit extension expires this week for more than 540 Vermont households. Vermont Legal Aid (VLA) and housing advocates are asking the state for more time.
“Most of us are afraid for our lives, the winter itself,” said Randy Tatro, 24-year-old motel voucher participant. “If you are homeless in winter and cannot end up in the centers – people freeze to death.”
April Metcalf, a participant in the coupon program, says she lived in several different motels in Central Vermont during the pandemic. “It’s just really hard. I’m scared to death and I’m sure everyone else is, ”she said. “What do we do when Thursday comes?”
In a letter to the Ministry for Children and Families, the VLA and accommodation providers call on the Ministry to extend the benefits “for as long as possible, depending on the availability of rooms” for 543 households. VLA attorney Mairead O’Reilly said ending the benefits made no sense given the rising COVID cases due to the highly transmissible Delta variant. “When lawmakers approved the government’s plan to offer benefits only for 84 days, the circumstances were very different,” she said.
Rick DeAngelis, executive director of Good Samaritan Haven in Barre, said that without an extension, 50 to 75 people in Washington County, Vermont will lose their homes. He said the state should take advantage of FEMA’s recent decision to extend a 100% co-payment until the end of the year. “Why wouldn’t you use these resources to offer support and protection during this time of uncertainty and crisis?” He asked.
The attorneys’ letter also indicates that while the state is investing in affordable housing and additional housing, the units are not being ready on time. Another Way, a contact point in Montpelier, supplies those in need with camping equipment – tarpaulins, tents, sleeping bags and meals.
However, Ken Russell, the site’s executive director, says this is a temporary fix. “We are helping them to become emotionally stable to the best of our ability,” he said. “But that feels like pulling the rug out from under the motel system. These are people we are talking about here. These are people who are out there not only because of moral mistakes, they are stuck in a life crisis. “
Metcalf says she is hoping for more support from Governor Phil Scott and his government and is praying. “What do you expect from us?” She said. “For real.”