Burlington, VT — Mayor Miro Weinberger was joined by officials from the Community & Economic Development Office on Wednesday to visit the construction site for the Elmwood Avenue emergency shelter project.
The construction company Pallet arrived in Burlington with the deconstructed pods and within 24 hours, most of the 25 single-occupancy pods and five double-occupancy pods had been assembled.
The Champlain Housing Trust will be managing the shelter and Amy Demetrowitz, Chief Operating Officer of the Champlain Housing Trust, says they are excited to be taking on the project.
“This was our first opportunity to come onsite and really see how everything is going to lay out, and start talking about how we’re going to manage physically the property,” Demetrowitz. “It’s really exciting, the shelters look lovely, we’re really excited to be taking this on.”
Ben Simons, Pallet’s manager of Community Development, said one key aspect of the project is that people are more likely to use the pods than traditional shelters.
“When you have your own space, when you have a locking door, when you have a bunk and a mattress and climate control, people that traditionally won’t accept a congregate shelter, or can’t accept it because they might not be allowed to go to it anymore, will accept this form of shelter,” he said.
This is a low-barrier shelter, meaning there will be few requirements to stay there. Sarah Russell, the special assistant to End Homelessness says resources to recover from alcohol or substance abuse will be offered as well as programs to help people find permanent housing.
“These shelter units have doors with locks on them, which I think is so powerful for people who have been so vulnerable and continue to be outside in the community,” said Russell. “They don’t have a safe place to store their belongings, and they can’t carry them across town,” Russell notes an average of 70 people sleep on Burlington’s streets on any given night.
The Elmwood shelter is only temporary as the city plans to operate it for three years. Mayor Weinberger hopes the city won’t be needing the shelter once the three years are up.
“Over three years I certainly hope we are working our way back to more historic levels where chronic homelessness is a substantially smaller problem, and frankly, I want to go farther than we ever have,” said Weinberger. “We are carrying out a whole series of strategies aimed at creating homes for formerly homeless individuals, and more homes across the housing spectrum.”
Weinberger also mentioned community efforts will be made to paint murals and build gardens on the grounds. The Champlain Housing Trust has not yet hired the number of staff they need to open but hope to do so prior to December 1.
The shelter is expected to open by the end of November and Demetrowitz added, as the weather gets colder, the need for shelter will only grow.