Ending homelessness in Vermont
Homelessness is growing in our state, especially among working families. It's estimated Vermont has well over 5,000 homeless individuals and families each year and on any given night 88 Vermont children are sleeping in a shelter. For more information on who is homeless in Vermont, visit the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness Web site.
In response to this, VHFA has assisted the state in homeless policies and program planning. There are two parallel planning efforts called the:
- Continuums of Care; and the
- Statewide Interagency Council on Homelessness
Continuums of Care
Structure of the continuums
Each region of Vermont has its own Continuum of Care. Ideally, a Continuum is a partnership of the local service providers (Community Action Agencies, Mental Health Providers, homeless and private health care providers, etc); local resource providers (Economic Services, Department of Children and Families, private lenders, etc.); nonprofit and for-profit housing managers; housing developers; consumers; and any other key local players in the homelessness or low-income service or housing system.
Together, this collection of partners meets regularly to monitor the needs in their region and works to streamline local services and housing.
History of the continuums
Vermont was ahead of its time and created a loose Continuum system well before HUD recognized the effectiveness of this model and began requiring communities to band together in this way in order to apply for homeless funding (McKinney/Vento Homeless Assistance).
The Chittenden County's Continuum is large enough to apply for funding on its own, and the rest of the state has joined together to form one large umbrella "Balance of State" Continuum that includes representatives from each of the regional Continuums. Together, the 13 counties outside Chittenden apply for HUD funding under one application.
Interagency Council on Homelessness
At the federal level there is a U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which is a collection of secretaries and department heads from approximately 20 federal agencies, all of which have some involvement in working with people who are homeless. The federal government encouraged states and large communities to replicate this model at the state level, and create a 10-year plan to end homelessness.
Governor Douglas created the Vermont Interagency Council on Homelessness (VICH) by Executive Order in November 2003. This entity is comprised of representatives from more than a dozen state and federal agencies as well as people who serve the homeless or were formerly homeless themselves.
This group meets monthly and is working on a plan that hopes to end homelessness in 10 years.
Contact a service provider
There are many homeless housing and service providers in each region of the state. Contact the local service provider in your area to find out more about the services and housing they offer, or to volunteer.
How do the two relate?
The Continuums of Care are responsible for applying for the approximately $2 million in federal homeless funding available annually as well as the ongoing responsibilities of running those programs. The Interagency Council is charged with creating new and analyzing existing state policies and altering state funding and programs to respond better to meet the needs of people who are homeless. There are several individuals, including VHFA Policy and Planning Manager Maura Collins, who participate regularly in both efforts to ensure coordination.
VHFA started regularly attending the Chittenden County and the Balance of State Continuum of Care meetings in August 2003. This lead to changes in how VHFA allocates tax credits to help providers possibly access new units created through that program.
Recognizing VHFA has an involvement with all of the state housing resources and housing managers, VHFA's Executive Director Sarah Carpenter was named to the Interagency Council and helped draft the original 10-year plan to end homelessness, which is now being revised.
In addition, VHFA has worked closely with the state in designing and awarding the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing funds awarded as a part of the 2009 federal stimulus package and continues to meet with the Deputy Secretary of the Agency of Human Services as well as Directors of each of the housing funding agencies quarterly to ensure state level coordination of homeless priorities.