VHCB Uses CARES Act Funding to Create Permanent Housing for People Experiencing Homelessness During the Pandemic

Upper Valley Haven, White River Junction
In White River Junction, the Upper Valley Haven serves 14,500 people annually.

December 10, 2020

VHCB Uses CARES Act Funding to Create Permanent Housing for People Experiencing Homelessness During the Pandemic
Nearly 250 new homes plus Health & Safety Improvements at 12 Shelters Statewide

Montpelier — When the Vermont Legislature turned to the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board to manage $34.25 million in CARES Act funding appropriated in June and July, it came with a very short timeline: all the money had to be spent by the end of December. The federal funds, from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, were targeted to secure and rehabilitate permanent housing for homeless households and to make improvements to shelters in communities around the state.

Due to the layout of congregate housing, homeless shelters had been unable to follow the health and safety protocols for COVID-19 established by the Centers for Disease Control. Since March, most shelters had closed and more than 2,000 individuals were reported homeless; many were being housed in motels around the state.

As the unemployment rate rose, the state legislators made the bold decision to target Coronavirus Relief funds to address the longstanding need to increase and improve housing options for the rapidly growing number of individuals and households struggling with homelessness.

By early August, VHCB had committed most of the funding—$30 million—to Vermont’s network of non-profit housing developers and to shelters statewide. In early October, the balance of the funds were committed. Work is currently underway or complete at 26 different sites, including the purchase of five motels that will be converted to create new homes with support services for people transitioning to permanent housing.

Gus Seelig, Executive Director of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, said, "In these uncertain times, VHCB’s commitment of federal CARES Act funding is supporting the development and rehabilitation of 243 homes plus improvements to 12 shelters around the state housing more than 250 people experiencing homelessness. While the tight timeframe presents a challenge, Vermont’s affordable housing developers and shelter providers have stepped up with innovative responses to the current crisis. We’re proud to be a part of this major thrust to provide safe, affordable housing with social services that will improve outcomes for Vermonters struggling with homelessness.”

Vermont’s response has required intensive collaboration between the Agency of Human Services, the Department of Housing & Community Development, and local shelter and service providers to connect Vermonters temporarily placed in motels with new homes. The one-time CARES Act funding will continue to house people throughout the public health emergency, the economic recovery, and for generations to come.

The effort is part of a multi-pronged housing response. The Vermont State Housing Authority and the Vermont Housing Finance Agency are using CARES Act funds to prevent homelessness by providing financially distressed Vermonters with assistance making rent and mortgage payments.

Barre - Downstreet Housing & Community Development has added a tiny home built by Norwich University students to a site they own, serving an individual previously experiencing homelessness. The Good Samaritan Haven, a shelter serving 250 guests annually, will add a bathroom, improve ventilation, add touchless fixtures, new flooring, a washer and dryer, and install a patio to create an outdoor social distancing area.

Bennington - Shires Housing is rehabilitating 15 currently vacant homes at Applegate Apartments. The homes will be rented to households experiencing homelessness. Support services will be provided in partnership with the Sunrise Family Resource Center. 

Bradford – At Whistlestop Mobile Home Park, Downstreet Housing & Community Development will place three new zero-energy modular homes. In coordination with the local continuum of care, Downstreet will rent the homes to households experiencing homelessness. Veterans, Inc., serving homeless male veterans with transitional housing and support services, will add ventilation units, touchless fixtures and appliances.

Brattleboro - Groundworks Collaborative is building a new, seasonal shelter with 20 beds on South Main Street that will also serve as a year-round day program for people experiencing homelessness and provide administrative space. They will add bed partitions, touchless faucets, and upgrade ventilation in the kitchen. At their existing, 12-bed shelter on Royal Road, Groundworks will convert office space to a new bedroom, adding 4 beds, improve ventilation, and add touchless fixtures.

Bristol - In partnership with the Addison County Community Trust, the John Graham Shelter has purchased three zero-energy modular homes to place at a mobile home park that will be rented to homeless households.   

BurlingtonANEW Place purchased the Champlain Inn and will offer free rooms year-round, housing up to 50 people in the 33-unit motel. The property also includes a 2,800 square foot house that will provide space for on-site services, group meetings, and laundry facilities.
The Committee on Temporary Shelter will add touchless fixtures and acrylic barriers at the Daystation and the Housing Resource Center on North Avenue and at the Waystation and the Wilson on Lower Church Street, also adding a bathroom at the Wilson.

Colchester - The Champlain Housing Trust purchased Handy’s Extended Stay Suites on Route 15 where Steps to End Domestic Violence will establish a new shelter serving up to 21 households escaping domestic and sexual violence, with capacity for both individuals and families with children.

Essex Junction - At the former Baymont Inn & Suites, the Champlain Housing Trust is creating a new facility to be known as Susan's Place, with 68 permanent apartments for people moving out of homelessness.

Hardwick – The Lamoille Housing Partnership will purchase and install two zero-energy modular homes at Evergreen Manor mobile home park. In coordination with the local continuum of care, LHP will rent the homes to households experiencing homelessness.  

Middlebury - Evernorth will purchase Weybridge Street Apartments, reserving four apartments for households experiencing, or at risk of homelessness. The Charter House Coalition will renovate their shelter, installing a ventilation system, reconfiguring the interior, constructing an outdoor pavilion for social distancing, and relocating the Day Station across the street, adding a guest laundry.

Morrisville - Clarina Howard Nichols Center, a shelter for survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence, will renovate 4 bathrooms and add a fifth, replace flooring, and improve ventilation.

Randolph - Clara Martin Center Safe Haven, a 6-bed transitional living residence for homeless individuals with mental illness, will install touchless doors and bathroom fixtures and repair and upgrade porches to expand the area for social distancing.

Rutland – The Rutland Housing Authority purchased a building on Woodstock Avenue and are rehabilitating it to provide 9 apartments with support services for households experiencing homelessness. NewStory Center, a family shelter serving victims of domestic and sexual violence, will add a ventilation system, touchless fixtures and doors, a dishwasher, renovate bathrooms, replace flooring, and expand a deck to create a 3-season room for social distancing.

St. Albans - Samaritan House, providing emergency shelter, transitional housing, and support services to individuals experiencing homelessness, will make accessibility improvements, add a bedroom, touchless fixtures, a ventilation system, and renovate 2 bathrooms.

St. Johnsbury - Rural Edge will rehabilitate, then rent 5 currently vacant apartments to households experiencing homelessness.

South Burlington - The Champlain Housing Trust purchased the Ho Hum Motel on the Williston Road, with up to 34 rooms for an isolation and quarantine site to help address and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Vermont.

Vergennes – The John Graham Shelter added new flooring, countertops, touchless fixtures, dishwashers, two new bathrooms, acrylic dividers, and a ventilation system.

West Brattleboro – The Windham & Windsor Housing Trust purchased Dalem’s Chalet and is rehabilitating the former motel to create 27 permanent homes with on-site supportive services to be coordinated by Groundworks Collaborative. The site will allow for additional housing development over time.

White River Junction – The Upper Valley Haven, a shelter serving 14,500 people per year, will install touchless fixtures, automatic doors and bed dividers for social distancing in the Byrne Family Shelter and Services Building and the Hixon Adult Shelter.

Windham and Southern Windsor CountiesThe Women's Freedom Center, providing services and shelter to survivors of domestic and sexual violence, will add ventilation systems to three buildings.

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The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board supports the development and preservation of affordable housing and the conservation of agricultural and recreational land, forestland, natural areas and historic properties. Learn more at www.vhcb.org