Studies show many Vermonters still have no home, condemned instead to two-year wait lists for Section 8 housing and seeking shelter in hospitals.
A $98.5 million grant from The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was distributed to 285 local housing authorities to provide permanent, affordable living situations for around 12,000 young, disabled and homeless people throughout the nation.
Rutland Housing Authority will receive $88,000 of that money annually and hopefully indefinitely, Kevin Loso, executive director said.
“Historically, we’ve never seen the vouchers go away once they’ve been issued,” Loso said. “(The funds will last) pretty much as long as Congress continues to fund the program.”
The new grant will fund rent subsidies for 14 new homes for Rutland area families whose members are disabled and aged up to 61 years of age.
“A lot are in transitional housing right now, which only lasts six months,” Loso said. “They’ll be homeless after that. Usually, you’re talking about the elderly, and a lot of the younger disabled are they’re overlooked. Now, we can house some of them.”
But this victory is a small one for the agency: The 14 families chosen are among over 175 applicants, some of whom have been on a waiting list for a housing voucher for up to two years, and Loso said the demand is getting worse.
“We currently have 219 properties,” Loso said. “The problem is much bigger than the available resources in Rutland.”
During last year’s one-day “Point in Time” or “Annual Point in Time Count,” a study conducted by Vermont State Housing Authority measuring homelessness throughout Vermont, on one night in January, 852 families were counted, 59 more than the prior year.
The study counted 1,225 Vermonters as completely homeless, an 11 percent increase from the year before.
Of the people counted, 306 were children.
Loso said the non-elderly include families with disabled children, or who may themselves suffer from chronic mental illness, developmental ailment or socialization challenges. Only four applicants on the RHA waiting list currently suffer from physical disabilities.
“Right now, we have some at the hospital,” said Becky Ladabouche, Section 8 program manager for RHA. “They want to be healthy, but they can’t afford it.”
“There are multiple instances where they are unable to be discharged from the hospital because they have nowhere to go,” Loso added.
The Homelessness Prevention Center in Rutland receives grant funding to help those who qualify for Section 8 housing, but Loso said those grants are all but used up.
With the vouchers provided by this new grant, Loso said some might have leases secured for new homes by the time November and Vermont’s unforgiving winter comes creeping back.
The RHA completed its most recent project, the “Hickory Street Development” in May, creating 78 energy-efficient Section 8 units thanks to a Community Development Block Grant.
And Loso said there’s already a wait list building.
“The need is huge,” Ladabouche said.
The Housing Authority issues vouchers according to HUD standards to eligible participants, who then pay 30 percent of their income toward rent.
“We pay the other 70 percent to the landlord,” Loso said.
For more information on Rutland Housing Authority, visit www.rhavt.org or call 775-2926.