Faith leaders push for housing funds as Vermont motel program phases out

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Vermont Interfaith Action, and other housing advocates, gathered at Montpelier’s Christ Episcopal Church Wednesday to push for more safe and stable housing in the state.

“We do not have enough new homes being built and the housing stock we do have is aging and in need of repair,” said Rev. Joan Javier-Duval, president of Vermont Interfaith Action.

That provides limited options for the 700 people transitioning out of the state’s motel program this summer. Right now, nearly 3,000 Vermonters without permanent housing rely on 75 different motels statewide for a roof over their heads.

“I’ve had housing vouchers since February and I have not been able to find an apartment,” said Tammy Menard.

Menard has been homeless for six years and currently lives at the Hilltop Inn in Berlin. She also provides peer support to other Vermonters who are also searching for housing. Menard says there’s anxiety in the air about the limited options of where to settle down.

“Most of the people I talk to, I find are having the same issue,” she said. “The lack of affordable housing in the state, and the lack of apartments in general.”

Menard says many of her neighbors will turn to tents, campers, cars and couch-surfing. Governor Phil Scott allocated $104 million for emergency shelters and affordable housing in the 2022 budget. He estimates 5-thousand new affordable units have to be built to meet the need. Organizers say that’s not enough.

“There will be a short term in safe housing for people,” said Rev. Carl Hilton Vanosdall. “By the current best estimates, over 100 people here in Washington county alone will be coming out of motels beginning on the 1st of July.”

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