The Housing Opportunity Program (HOP), administered by the Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity, recently awarded $246,485 for state fiscal year 2019-20 to fund SEVCA’s homelessness prevention and re-housing efforts. The award provides $177,781 for services in the Brattleboro-area Agency of Human Services (AHS) District, $44,204 in the Hartford (Upper Valley) AHS District, and $24,500 in the Springfield AHS District. The award is renewable for one year (with the exception of $26,900 in GA Alternatives funding which is provided for one year at a time), for a total possible award of $466,070 over two years. It will enable SEVCA’s Family Services program to continue to provide housing assistance and case management services to at-risk and homeless families throughout our Windham and Windsor County service area. However, the funding available for direct assistance to help re-house or prevent people from becoming homeless will be close to $10,000 less than last year, prompting SEVCA to launch a fundraising appeal to overcome this deficit and ensure we are able to respond to the continuing need for help (See article, below).
The HOP application included a request for continuation of the General Assistance (GA) Alternatives Pilot Program, which, for the past three years, has funded a part-time case manager to work directly with homeless families and individuals sheltered in motels in the Brattleboro area. The goal is to shorten their motel stay by supporting them to locate a more permanent housing solution as soon as possible. This position was continued for the coming year, but our request to expand this program to the Upper Valley was not funded.
Granite United Way also recently announced their grant awards, which included a $17,500 grant to SEVCA’s Family Services department to provide fuel and housing assistance to Windsor County households in crisis. GUW funding enables SEVCA to help households that might not meet the strict state program eligibility criteria for the HOP or Crisis Fuel programs, and is essential to meeting the needs of vulnerable Windsor County households. Unfortunately, the award was less than the $20,000 granted to SEVCA last year.
SEVCA Seeks Donations to Help Prevent Homelessness and Re-house the Homeless
Homelessness, or the imminent threat of homelessness, is a persistent problem affecting hundreds of area households annually, yet the funding required to address it doesn’t come close to matching the need. Affordable housing is scarce, and housing costs routinely far exceed the recommended 30% of income for many Windham and Windsor County households, putting pressure on scarce resources and leading to a housing crisis for many. SEVCA is currently seeking private donations for its eviction-prevention and rehousing work, to help cover the gap in funding due to recent reductions in grants for this purpose (See article, above).
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, from 2007 – 2017 in Vermont, the number of severely cost-burdened households (paying over 50% of their income on housing) increased by 28%, coinciding with an 18% increase in homelessness over the period (including a 21% increase in family homelessness and a 47% increase in homelessness among veterans). The most recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (2019) found Vermont to have the 9th most expensive housing in non-metro areas in the nation; and the 6th highest gap in the nation between the average renter wage and the “Housing Wage” (the hourly wage needed to rent affordably).
SEVCA helps re-house or prevent homelessness for over 400 Windham and Windsor County households annually through a combination of private and public resources, providing crisis intervention, counseling, case management, and financial assistance to help them secure or maintain a safe, affordable place to live. We also provide budget counseling and follow-up services to improve the financial stability of these low-income households, and work closely with local coalitions of service providers to effectively coordinate services.