Montpelier, VT – Thursday is the first deadline for the homeless utilizing the state’s pandemic-era hotel voucher program to exit their temporary homes. The program is ending due to the lack of funding.
The owners of the EconoLodge in Montpelier are giving their homeless residents a two-week extension to give them more time to find alternative housing options.
“I’m more than grateful for this program. It saved me and my kids,” said Mariah Ford, who has been utilizing the program.
Ford, her husband, and three kids have been using the State’s General Assistance Hotel Housing Vouchers for over a year at the EconoLodge in Montpelier after receiving a no-cause eviction from their home in Barre.
Ford was forced to leave her job at Cumberland Farms to care for her son’s mental health needs.
As Vermont’s lawmakers and administration jockey for their preferred solutions, Ford will be forced to exit, leaving her family to fight for their lives.
“We don’t know what’s next. We don’t know what is going to happen. I probably cry at least three times a day. It’s terrifying because those are my babies,” said Ford.
Down the hall from Ford is David Henault, a Montpelier native that has been in the pandemic-era program for its entirety.
Henault helped start a non-profit that aims to patch holes in Vermont’s mental health care system.
Henault is still searching for affordable housing and says he fears for his health.
“I actually have dead tissue on the brain. I have about eight spots and now they are finding lesions,” said Henault.
“This program is very good, but there is no direct help here. You need to completely outsource it,” said new resident of EconoLodge, Brandon Boone.
As state leaders continue to scrap for funding and shelter options, Barre City Manager Nicolas Storellicastro has proposed the city’s B.O.R. Ice Arena as a possible solution.
“We put in a price that is high because we don’t know the true impacts of this, so it’s something we’re willing to negotiate with the state. We want to be part of the solution,” said Storellicastro.
Ford says the solution won’t suffice for families. “They are going to choose to try paying for camp sites or sleeping in a tent outside versus staying in a big open space with a bunch of people you don’t know,” said Ford.
“I can tough it out. Would I rather have a roof over my head, oh yeah,” said Henault.
Those that have been in the program for over four months are supposed to receive an over $3-thousand-dollar security deposit that was given to the hotels at the start of the program.
But guests say they only got about $500 of those dollars, with the hotels and the state saying it was for room repairs.
Updates will continue during the evacuation process.