The unhousing—eviction—of people in the motel voucher program is continuing as planned by the governor and legislature. Approximately 760 households are being evicted this month. Some of the 1,100 households scheduled to be booted out on July 1 have apparently been given a temporary reprieve.
I cannot believe the insensitivity and ignorance of the governor and the Legislature. The secretary of the Agency of Human Services cavalierly said the residents being evicted would “self-resolve” their situations.
The recent book “Homelessness is a Housing Problem” demonstrates the close association between regional homelessness rates and the region’s rent prices and vacancy rates. Vermont vacancy rates are extremely low and rents have recently increased dramatically. Vermont is, essentially, in a housing crisis.
The book identifies the three primary characteristics of the unhoused as poverty, disability, and addiction. Yet state Senator Bobby Starr said that those housed in the program, who are able to work need to get a job. I know for a fact that many already have jobs, yet cannot afford rents even if an apartment becomes available. Starr implied that those capable of work but not working are leeches.
That lack of understanding of the larger issue and who comprise the ranks of the unhoused illustrates the real obstacle to solving the problem: those in government do not have the lived experience needed to understand the problem. The unhoused are simply invisible to many legislators.
If only that problem could “self-resolve.”