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COTS Launches Program To Create Path To Permanent Housing

The Burlington-based Committee on Temporary Shelter, better known as COTS, has received a grant that will allow them to launch a new program. The goal is to go beyond temporary housing in shelters and overflow motels and instead create a bridge back to permanent housing.

They’ll be working on this project with the Champlain Housing Trust and the Howard Center.

Rita Markley, the Executive Director of COTS, say the new program, says the program will put housing first.

“Right now the system is set up so that a lot of money is spent after everything is lost, credit has been destroyed, people have been foreclosed on or evicted and the hundreds of thousands goes into the crisis or overflow hotels.”

The new initiative will move families into an apartment where they have a kitchen, and other amenities that make it feel like a stable home.

The apartments are being set aside by the Champlain Housing Trust specifically for COTS. Then the families will be paired with a case manager from the Howard Center.

Under the program, the family will be entirely subsidized for the first year. All of their payment goes toward a “pay it forward fund,” which is matched two-to-one. That becomes the family’s subsidy for the second year. And then on the third year, they are on their own.

Markley acknowledges that there are some abusers of the motel system, “but for the most part, the people using that system are families struggling that just couldn’t make it in their $11-12 job in a housing market where a one bedroom costs $900 bucks a month.”

“Many of these people already have jobs, the problem is they don’t pay enough. They’ll be hopefully working on skills and a plan to develop new training and expertise to maybe bring a higher wage.”

The Howard Center team will also be meeting with the families twice per week to deal with other problems the family may be facing.  

“Bring the job training, bring the opportunities for financial literacy, bring the mental health and substance abuse supports to that household so that they’re successful there because it can easily happen month upon month in shelter where you’re saving, but you don’t have the credit to get anywhere near an apartment that you just give up. You stop believing another life is possible,” Markley says.

If it works Markley thinks this program will be what the state wants to continue funding, rather than the current model of housing people in shelters and overflow motels.

Click listen to hear the interview.

Melody is the Contributing Editor for But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids and the co-author of two But Why books with Jane Lindholm.
A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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