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Scott administration shuts down its four temporary homeless shelters

People gather outside of a door; they are photographed from behind
Glenn Russell
People who are unhoused line up to be admitted to a temporary shelter in Burlington on Monday, March 18, 2024.

This story, by Report for America corps member Carly Berlin, was produced through a partnership between VTDigger and Vermont Public.

State officials have closed down four mass temporary homeless shelters as of 7 a.m. this morning, according to Nya Pike, a spokesperson for the Department for Children and Families.

Gov. Phil Scott’s administration scrambled to assemble the four shelters as hundreds of people lost their eligibility for state-subsidized rooms through Vermont’s motel housing program last week. On March 15, people who received a voucher through the program’s winter-weather eligibility needed to prove they had a qualifying vulnerability in order to hang onto their rooms for a few more months.

Few people ousted from the motels made their way to the state’s temporary shelters, particularly during their first few days of operation last weekend.

Throughout the past week, however, turnout at the National-Guard-staffed shelters ticked up – most notably in Burlington. The number of people staying at the temporary shelter downtown increased considerably after the city’s winter warming shelter closed for the season on Monday. During its last night of operation on Thursday, nearly 40 people stayed at the shelter on Cherry Street, according to Pike.

On Wednesday, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinbeger called for the state to continue operating the temporary shelter beyond March 22. Weinberger emphasized that the temporary accommodations at the site failed to provide basic resources. But he said that given the lack of other shelter options available in town – and increases in unsheltered homelessness after previous rounds of motel program evictions – “it would be a policy failure, it would be a moral failure, it would be an economic failure for the state to go forward with their plan to close the Cherry Street shelter on Friday.”

A winter storm approaching Vermont has triggered the state’s night-by-night Adverse Weather Conditions policy for Friday and Saturday statewide. Yet the availability of motel and hotel rooms varies considerably across the state. According to a state memo, in Chittenden County, fewer than five rooms are estimated to be available today.

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Carly covers housing and infrastructure for Vermont Public and VTDigger and is a corps member with the national journalism nonprofit Report for America.
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