The weather is getting colder, which means more unhoused Vermonters will be utilizing emergency housing services.

98% of Vermont’s homeless population is chronically unhoused, according to the 2022 annual Homelessness Report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Deputy Commissioner of Economic Services Miranda Gray says there’s a lot of factors in what brings people into homelessness.

“One of the major factors in Vermont is that there isn’t enough housing for people,” says Gray.

Last year, the Vermont Department for Children and Families introduced winter rules for state subsidized shelters. This year, the DCF announced it will be using these same rules to guide its shelter operations throughout the 2023-2024 winter season.

“What we always hope with this program is that we really are bringing in Vermonters, the most vulnerable Vermonters, at a time when conditions are just too unsafe to be unhoused,” says Gray.

Beginning November 15 through December 15, and again this upcoming March 15 through April 15, eligibility requirements will be loosened, dependent on weather. Gray says the eligibility will expand if temperatures or windchills become less than 20 degrees, or temperatures less than 32 degrees with higher than 50% chance of precipitation.

Between December 15 through March 15, shelter requirements will be loosened regardless of weather conditions.

“We have two categories and they are catastrophic and vulnerable,” says Gray, “during that time, people are limited to 20 or 84 days, but you have to meet one of those categories. During adverse weather conditions, all you really need to say is that you don’t have anywhere to be housed.” 

This year there will be less housing available through the program; 1,5000 rooms compared to last year’s 1,800.

The DCF keeps an up-to-date housing capacity list showing anticipated availability at motels participating in the program.

Currently, 8 of the 12 regions have “little to no availability.”