Editor’s Note: This letter was sent to Vermont legislators this week as the legislative session nears its conclusion. Thirty youth leaders from throughout the state, including local youth leaders, signed it.
Dear Vermont Legislators:
We are a coalition of concerned youth who are writing to you about the current homelessness crisis. Last year, we all signed a letter demanding that the General Assistance Motel Program be extended. Now, we are getting in touch in the hopes of extending that program again. Homelessness is a policy choice. Nobody should be sleeping on the streets.
Legislators currently have the chance to continue the program and literally save lives. On top of the moral aspect, there is also an economic aspect: motel owners are willing to renegotiate the price. At this point, $23 million is all that is needed to continue the program for all participants through March and keep people alive.
Why wouldn't we make this choice?
Meanwhile, it costs $35,000 per year per homeless individual. For every person experiencing homelessness in Vermont, that is $63 million in one year. Extending the program is less costly than letting people languish and suffer on the streets.
In the above-mentioned letter, we as youth envisioned Vermont would keep everyone in motels until there was a solid plan in place for housing. But that is not happening right now. In fact, Vermont is choosing to kick thousands of people out of shelter for no reason other than the statement that it’s time to end this program.
We are becoming a model to the nation, but in a bad way. Vermont already has the second highest rate of homelessness in the nation. We don’t need to kick people out on top of that.
Please use your power to extend the General Assistance Motel Program before the end of the session by including it in the budget. Your decision will impact thousands of lives. We want to live in a Vermont that cares for all Vermonters and would not callously look the other way on those with the least.
Addie Lentzner, Jenna Hirschman, Lydia Beaulieu, Minelle Sarfo-Adu, Elias Poling, Ava White, Grace Marroquin, Marlayna King, Ella Murphy, Audrey Robinson, Ciera Fiaschetti, Jolyn Fang, Emma Hoover, Iris Hsiang, Hannah Gallivan, Shishi Dai, Rhea Veerareddy, Tracy Joosten, Lily Larsen, Mackenzie Flint, Isabel Swain, Jassie Fang, Nicole Schubert, Beniamano Nardin, Luka Breen, Amatista Keller-Angelo, Delia Beaudry, Grace Waryas, Jay Leuschner, and Marshall Moffatt.