The Housing Trust of Rutland County is pursuing a new location that would bring 20 new units of affordable housing to the area, according to executive director Elizabeth Kulas.
Kulas shared the plan with attendees at Thursday’s Project VISION meeting. She said the trust was negotiating to buy a piece of property in the city.
“We are looking to develop 20 micro-units, which are small 325 square feet, approximately, individual, independent apartments that are intended to be long-term — you sign a year lease — that would hopefully have subsidy on them so it’s affordable to the individual living there and have space on site and partnerships in place to provide services onsite to the folks who are living there. The intended population would be Rutland’s most vulnerable,” she said.
Because it involved ongoing real estate negotiations, Kulas said she couldn’t provide many details.
Kulas said the project was in response to great need.
“Rutland County has a homeless crisis that is actually second to none in the state. We have the raw numbers that Chittenden County has and that is not just individuals but especially families with children. We have a lot of work to do,” she said.
According to the 2018 Point in Time Report, an annual count of homeless populations across the state, Rutland County had 114 homeless individuals and 91 homeless households as of its publication in May. The report is a project of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness and the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance.
During the past year, Kulas said, the housing trust has been working with partners Rutland Regional Medical Center, Rutland Mental Health and the Vermont Department of Mental Health, to learn more about people who are homeless in the Rutland County area.
Kulas said the organizations wanted to help families get new housing as quickly as possible if they have lost their place to live.
“There are families in our community, lots and lots of families in our community, over the course of a year, who experience homelessness. It is our hope and yours, too, I’m sure, that that experience be super shortlived because every homeless experience is traumatic and the more people experiencing that trauma, the more of a health crisis we have in our community,” she said.
Among the populations that were identified in Rutland County were families, individuals, chronically-homeless individuals with mental health issues, victims of domestic and sexual violence, people who are trying to recover from substance abuse and people who are in crisis because of mental health issues.
While Kulas acknowledged resources such as the Open Door Mission, the NewStory Center and RRMC, she said more resources are needed.
Kulas said Deborah Hall, executive director of the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program, had talked about the number of families living in motels because of the lack of affordable, inhabitable housing.
After finding that many people in need of housing, Kulas said the housing trust, over the last 25 years, had developed more than 330 units and was planning to buy 40 more in January.
The Housing Trust of Rutland County develops and manages affordable housing. The trust has almost 50 buildings, many of them in Rutland, with others in Brandon, West Rutland, Fair Haven, Poultney and Benson, and some mobile home parks.
This month’s Project VISION meeting focused on the homelessness problem in Rutland County.
Hall announced that she would be stepping down from her role as the leader of the Homeless Prevention project. Her successor, Angus Chaney, was also at the Project VISION meeting.
Hall spoke of a two-year-old program, Coordinated Entry, to get people back into housing more quickly.
“Coordinated Entry helped us identify at-risk households very quickly. It increased our prevention efforts 64 percent, actually. We were able to prevent homelessness in 92 households in this last fiscal year. We can do better,” Hall said.
Kulas said her request of those at the meeting on Thursday was for a little patience about the location of the new Rutland project, and a little more presence at public meetings after the project was announced to show support.
Kulas said she didn’t expect to close on the property, which she said was an existing property that would be returned to the property rolls if the project is successful, until about August.
“These things don’t happen overnight,” she said.
The Housing Trust will host a fundraising event Friday night, the Flannel Formal, starting at 6 p.m. at Southside Steakhouse on South Main Street.