State survey gives snapshot of homelessness problem in county

MONTPELIER — Researchers found 1,225 Vermonters literally homeless on a single night this past January.
The 2017 Point-in-Time Count Report, released June 13 by the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness and the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance, showed an overall increase in homelessness by 11 percent compared to the 2016 Point-in-Time Count. (Read the full report by clicking on the link below or by clicking here.)
While there was an overall statewide increase, there were striking regional differences, including decreases in Chittenden (-12 percent) and Franklin (-17 percent) counties. Included in the total were 306 children, representing 25 percent of the entire homeless population counted.
In Addison County the number of households that were homeless on that day rose from 47 in 2016 to 58 in 2017 — a 23 percent increase — and the number of homeless individuals rose from 77 in the 2016 count to 92 in 2017, which represents a 19 percent increase.
“The work of local communities, with the help of local, state and federal investments, is needed now more than ever,” said MaryEllen Mendl, co-chair of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness. “The Trump budget would cut off affordable housing assistance to an estimated 750 Vermont families, putting them at risk of eviction and homelessness. It also eliminates numerous key programs that fund the creation of new affordable homes, like Community Development Block Grants, HOME and the National Housing Trust Fund.”
The report comes from data collected for the Annual Point-in-Time Count, an unduplicated count of persons experiencing literal homelessness on the night of Jan. 24, 2017. The Count was organized by Vermont’s two federally-recognized Continua of Care (CoC), the Chittenden County CoC and the 11 local coalitions that make up the Balance of State CoC. These networks are comprised of homeless and human service organizations, housing agencies, government agencies, health care providers, private funders, and other partners that strive to eliminate homelessness in Vermont.
Additional Point-in-Time Count Findings:
•  134 people were unsheltered, a 14 percent decrease from last year.
•  Just under half of the people (47 percent) were homeless for the first time.
•  267 persons (22 percent) reported as survivors of domestic violence, a 40-person increase from 2016.
•  Due to coordinated statewide efforts, the population of homeless veterans has steadily declined since the 2013 count. 2017 saw a continuation of this downward trend with 94 veterans counted, a 15 percent decrease compared to last year. There were no homeless veterans counted in Addison County that day.
•  340 people (28 percent) reported having a severe mental illness. 228 people (19 percent) reported having a substance abuse disorder.
The Point-In-Time Count findings come on the heels of the release of the Out of Reach Report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition. Vermont’s average Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,139. In order to afford this — without paying more than 30 percent on rent and utilities — a household must earn $45,545 annually, translating to a $21.90 hourly wage. This is unaffordable for a large percentage of Vermonters. The report found that Vermont has the fifth largest affordability gap for renters of any state in the nation. High rents, coupled with vacancy rates as low as 1 percent, continue to be barriers to finding and retaining housing.
People who experience homelessness in Vermont face complex challenges, which include and go beyond the unaffordability of housing. The Point-in-Time Count allows local communities and state policy makers to understand the current problems of homelessness, target limited funding to appropriate housing and services, and track progress towards ending and preventing homelessness.

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