By Elizabeth Hewitt, VTDigger.org
A report from the Department for Children and Families shows more Vermonters are relying on emergency housing vouchers.
According to the report submitted to the Legislature last week, the department received 15,431 applications for emergency housing between January and June, up from 9,503 during the same period in 2014.
The report also says Vermont’s emergency housing program is “prohibitively expensive” and that funding is “not sustainable.” The state spent $4.2 million on emergency housing vouchers in fiscal year 2015—$1 million more than the amount appropriated in the budget adjustment act.
Ken Schatz, commissioner of the Department for Children and Families, said the report indicates many Vermonters are struggling to secure reliable housing. “We do have a real homelessness problem in the state that goes beyond emergency housing,” Schatz said in an interview Tuesday, Aug. 4. “We really have a need for permanent housing.”
Schatz said the department is looking for alternatives to emergency housing vouchers. Shelters, rapid rehousing and other alternatives are not only more affordable for the state, they provide better service, he said.
In the FY 2016 budget, lawmakers appropriated $2.3 million to fund emergency housing vouchers—approximately half the total amount spent on emergency housing vouchers in FY 2015.
According to the report, domestic violence and child abuse is the primary cause of homelessness for people applying for temporary