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Vermont - Ending Family Homelessness 2020

EFH2020

 

On any given night, over 1,100 Vermonters find themselves without housing. Nearly one in four is a child. The stress and instability of homelessness can have profound impacts on a child’s health, behavioral development, and educational achievement. For their parents -- many of whom have experienced personal and economic crises prior to losing housing -- homelessness can further destabilize the family, making parenting in public and assuring children that tomorrow will bring a better reality that much harder. Stable, safe housing is critical for Vermonters of all ages - children, youth and adults - which is why the highest priority AHS housing effort is ending homelessness in Vermont.

In 2015, Vermont launched a statewide initiative to end child and family homelessness in Vermont by 2020. The three-part strategy includes:

Adopting the national “Family Connection” framework to ensure local communities have a coordinated system for assessing families’ housing needs and connecting them to the appropriate housing, benefits, employment supports, and evidence-based intervention the first time.

Braiding supportive services, housing, and rental assistance to improve stability for families, children, landlords and communities.

Constructing and rehabilitating rental housing which is affordable to households with extremely low incomes, and accessible to families and individuals who have experienced homelessness.

This approach emphasizes collaboration between programs operated by the Agency of Human Services; federal programs providing housing and shelter assistance; and local organizations – collectively termed the “homeless Continuum of Care” – which provide shelter, housing and services to Vermonters who are homeless or at-risk. In adopting the “Family Connection” framework, state government and our partners are aligning strategies, resources, and technical assistance to support highly-effective practices and systems. This includes:

Developing a coordinated entry system to assess a family’s needs and connect people experiencing homelessness to the most appropriate housing option as well as the benefits, employment, and community-based services they need to sustain that housing and achieve stability;

Ensuring that all parts of the state have some baseline emergency shelter or transitional housing capacity;

Providing timely prevention assistance to divert people from entering the shelter system when there are housing options available;

Increasing access to affordable housing;

Ensuring that all parts of the state have some Supportive Housing capacity and prioritize this option for the highest-need households;

Coordinating supportive services, housing, and rental subsidy assistance through statewide policy work, local partnerships and specialized training;

Re-tooling programming to emphasize activities which have proven most effective.

 

Beyond ensuring Vermonters have the best services, subsidies and systems in place to support housing stability, we’ll need housing. Our state is experiencing a severely constrained rental housing market. A housing market is considered balanced and healthy when vacancy remains between 4% and 6%. According to a recent study, there is currently a 1% vacancy rate for multi-family properties. This has resulted in high rental costs for everyone and made it more difficult for persons with very low incomes to find affordable rentals. Such scarcity drives down opportunity for people who are homeless, leading to full shelters and pushing the recently homeless toward less desirable options such as motels. Improving conditions in the rental market will require a number of strategies that include investment by government and the private sector in all parts of the housing market. It also requires robust rental assistance and supportive services for homeless families.

In 2016, Vermont recorded a 26% reduction in the number of Vermont families with children experiencing homelessness. Across all populations, Vermont saw a similar 28% decline in homelessness, the largest percentage decrease of any state in America. Other programs serving children, such as Head Start, reported similar progress with increases in the number of families who entered the program without housing but secured it within the year.

Realizing this collective goal will take sustained focus in the coming years, and the commitment of partners from both state and federal government, business, the philanthropic sector, and local faith-based and non-profit groups. Vermont is far from declaring “Mission Accomplished,” but we are ready to declare our mission of making homelessness history.

 

For additional information, contact Angus Chaney, AHS Director of Housing at 241-0440 or angus.chaney@vermont.gov