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Homelessness on the Rise in Vermont, According to Point-In-Time Count

Vermont's homeless problem is getting worse.
BURLINGTON - Vermont's homeless problem is getting worse.

The annual homeless count took place on January 28, 2014. The Point-In-Time report came out Wednesday, revealing 1,556 Vermonters are homeless. That's a 9.28% increase from 2013.

The Committee on Temporary Shelter, or COTS, tries to never turn anyone away.

"We have places where people can sit up in reclines or couches," said Becky Holt, the Development Director for COTS. "It's not ideal, but it keeps people from freezing to death." This past season really tested that.

"Winters are always hard. But this past winter being particularly cold, and long, with high numbers made it that much more challenging."

Jeanne Montross, Co-chair of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness and Executive Director of HOPE, says the federal sequestration cuts to Section 8 housing vouchers contributed to the increase in Vermonters without homes.

"Lack of affordable housing, low vacancy rates, people's lack of sufficient income to afford shelter," she said, listing some of the reasons for the higher numbers.

She was alarmed by the jump in unsheltered people.

"By unsheltered we mean people who are living on the streets, in tents, in the woods, in cars," she said.

The average low temperature on January 28th, when the count was taken, was 1°. It was as low as
-8° in Saint Johnsbury.

"And we had 166 people sleeping outside that night," said Montross. That's a 58% jump from last year.

The state of Vermont does pay for motel rooms when it's colder than 20 degrees, so that night qualified. 590 people used the motel vouchers the night of the count. Many of them wouldn't have qualified if it were warmer, so Montross says that would've made the number of people on the street higher.

Montross also says 15% of homeless Vermonters surveyed reported they were victims of domestic violence from their intimate partner. That number doesn't include any children living in that environment.

About 1 in 4 homeless Vermonters are children.

To read the full report, click here.
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