The day many Vermonters dealing with homelessness have long feared has now arrived.
This Thursday, June 1, the state’s General Assistance Hotel Voucher Program, which gave thousands of people shelter in Vermont hotel rooms the last few years, is coming to an end after lawmakers did not include funding for it in the new state budget.
Demarco Simpson, who’s been staying at a hotel in Colchester for a number of months now, is among the people being forced to check out on Thursday. He says he wants to see funding put in the state budget to continue helping people like him.
“We need help. What are we supposed to do? We’re asking the state for help,” Simpson said. “Put us in a budget or something, you know? Give us a chance. I could barely help myself right now, and imagine what I’m going through. But I’m gracious, and I believe in God, and he’s going to help me.”
Luis Hernandez, another person being forced out of his Colchester hotel room Thursday, says he’s been looking for a place to stay for a while now. However, he says he hasn’t had any luck finding a renter that will work with him, and he puts the blame on the stigma around homelessness.
“You mention ‘homeless’ and everybody looks at you like, ‘Oh my God, these guys, they’re from the streets, they’re on drugs,’ It’s not like that bro, you’ve got family that lost their jobs,” Hernandez said. “There’s people here that work, there’s people here that got two jobs, there’s people here that got cars, there’s people that got kids, but they can’t get a residence because of the word ‘homeless.’”
“It’s sad bro, it’s sad,” Hernandez continued. “You have people that are trying to change, and it’s really hard, it’s getting to them. I don’t know what’s going to happen [on Thursday] bro. You’ve got people here that might probably barricade themselves in the room.”
Other people staying in hotels through the program are being forced out in July, but aren’t any less concerned or angry than the people being told to leave this week. Mark Adams, who’s been in a hotel in Colchester since Dec. 1, 2022, says ending the program will only create more problems.
“I don’t believe in pulling the keys to this program is the answer, because you’re still going to have the same problem now as you did then. You’re just kicking the can further down the road,” Adams said.
With additional funding for the program not making it into the state budget, some city officials are now coming up with plans on how to help those being forced out. Rutland Mayor Mike Doenges told us about his plans last week, and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is expected to announce plans for the Queen City later this week.
But whether it’s city or state providing help, many people dealing with homelessness say they just want to be given a fighting chance.
“I have no clue where I’m going to go,” Adams said. “Please don’t give up on us, because this could be you tomorrow. You lose your job, you get behind on your rent … this is what happened with us.”