With Vermont’s General Assistance Hotel Voucher Program coming to an end for a lot of people in less than a week, a number of communities statewide are preparing for an increase in unhoused individuals looking for places to go.
One of the municipalities that could be impacted the greatest is Rutland, as close to 200 people are being forced out of hotels throughout the city. Mike Doenges, Rutland’s mayor, says the issue is unprecedented.
“I don’t think Rutland’s ever seen anything like this,” Doenges said.
Doenges was elected to be Rutland’s new mayor this past Town Meeting Day, and says he’s been talking with the city’s police department and coalitions in the area about how to address the hotel voucher problem when the day comes. Now that the program is just days away from ending, he says step one will be finding out exactly how many people need help.
“The plan is a lot right now of really evaluating where we’re at after the program lets out,” Doenges said. “We don’t know what people are going to do.”
Doenges hopes that some people can find housing with family and friends right away, but he knows not everyone will.
“One of the concerns is, is there going to be encampments? And the answer, if we’re being honest, is probably yes,” Doenges said. “The encampments tend to show up on properties where the land owners don’t say anything about it.”
For those who do need shelter, Doenges says he plans on talking to the state about creating transitional housing, which would give people short-term shelter until other options open up.
“I’m going to put back a proposal that talks about how we can use transitional housing over a longer period of time, because that’s what we should have been thinking about like three years ago,” Doenges said.
On top of that, the city plans to hold an event on June 14 and June 15 at the Rutland Fairgrounds where unhoused individuals will be able to talk with landlords who are renting and businesses who are hiring.
“People from the hotels that have either left and don’t have a place now that are still in town, or people who are about to leave on July 1, can come and meet with all of those different agencies,” Doenges said.
Doenges says most of the people being forced out this coming week will be single individuals or couples, and families will be pushed out on July 1.
To read Doenges’ full plan, you can visit the city’s website.