No matter how the numbers are crunched and no matter how much handwringing has gone on in the Vermont Legislature this year, 2,500-3,000 people are going to be exited from their housing when the motel voucher program ends this summer.



That represents 1,800 households, including 550 children, currently living in motels.

The House allocated $20 million to purchase manufactured homes for some 500 people and the Senate removed it – allocating $10 million from funding for child care for housing. Both chambers are in conference on the budget this week but it does not seem likely that full funding for the voucher program will make it in the final version.

Federal dollars that flowed because of the pandemic created the voucher program, which has been one of the single most impactful thing in the state’s history when it comes to housing the homeless.

The program has created stability for so many households and that stability has allowed people to address health issues, to find and hold jobs, to regularly attend school and much, much more. It’s a feat of social engineering that has been incredibly successful and impactful.

Brenda Siegel, former Democratic candidate for governor and one of the state’s leading advocates for the un-housed, has played a critical role in keeping the plight of the state’s homeless in front of legislators and the rest of us. The Vermont media has done the same.

The legislators and Governor Phil Scott have repeatedly said that Vermont cannot afford to continue the program now that the federal funding has dried up.

Why not? Who says we cannot afford to continue to fund that? These are policy decisions that reflect priorities. The Legislature didn’t flinch at raising fees and taxes levied on all Vermonters by at least 25% this year despite the governor’s threat of a veto. And indeed, some tried to fully fund the motel voucher program that protects the most vulnerable seniors, families and children in our state.

Homeless advocates and agencies are fundraising to purchase camping gear for adults and kids who’re about to be exited from the heat, running water, electricity, WiFi and security that has stabilized their lives.

Is this who we are?