UPDATE: Former plaintiff calls Vermont hotel housing class-action lawsuit “a necessary first recognition”

Local News

There’s new information concerning Vermont Legal Aid’s class-action lawsuit against the state of Vermont, even though the suit is currently on pause. The suit has to do with a June decision by Gov. Phil Scott’s administration to tighten the eligibility requirements homeless Vermonters must meet for emergency housing in hotels and motels.

“I think (the class-action suit) is a necessary first recognition that there have been some areas where policy and process and legal process has not been followed,” Tina Gray-Rand said on Friday.

She was due to lose her emergency housing at the beginning of the month until a Wednesday judicial order put a stop to that. Tina is staying in the Pierre Motel in downtown Barre.

“I’m not able to work full-time right now,” she said. “After coming into the hotel process, PTSD was triggered. There’s been — it’s a lot of stress, on top of rebuilding your own life.”

Tina, and about 700 other Vermonters with disabilities in hotel housing, need the state to officially verify their disability. If it happens, their stay is extended for 12 more weeks.

Tina got that to happen on Thursday. Her stay at the Pierre Motel has been extended through at least September 23. However, it also means she’s no longer a plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit. Her name was on the court filings.

“The old criteria of housing — I think it’s probably outdated and archaic,” Tina said. “This could be a good time, actually, to look at what really might work.”

In late June, Vermont lawmakers passed a bill setting up a stronger enforcement system for rental property safety. That system would have included creating a statewide rental unit registry.

On Friday, Gov. Phil Scott vetoed that measure, writing in part:

“Most agree we suffer from a critical housing shortage for middle income, low income and homeless Vermonters, but the solution is not more regulation. Instead, we need to invest in new and rehabilitated housing in every corner of our state.”

Tina says she supports the governor and knows full well that his administration has had to act quickly and decisively during the pandemic. Even so, she remains concerned about the state’s direction.

“I don’t think it says well of our society to say that we were going to address the homelessness and then to be putting people out and creating tent cities like we are,” she said.

Local 22 & Local 44 News has also reached out to the Vermont Agency of Human Services — the defendant in the class-action lawsuit — for comment. As of this writing, agency officials had not replied.

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