January 11, 2024

Contact: Stephanie Gomory, Communications Director, ACLU of Vermont
[email protected], 802-223-6304 x111

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Housing First Vermont today released its plan for evidence-based solutions to end homelessness in Vermont. The coalition’s Housing First proposal highlights evidence-based priorities for Vermont policymakers to address a statewide crisis that has resulted in the second-highest rate of homelessness in the country.

Brenda Siegel, Executive Director, End Homelessness VT:  “Everyone who calls Vermont home deserves a safe and affordable place to live. With proven strategies, we can absolutely achieve that goal. We urge state lawmakers to follow the recommendations in this plan and to commit to keeping people sheltered as a shuttle to permanent housing, rather than as a respite from the street. It is time to act with urgency and compassion to address the crisis of homelessness in Vermont. Far too many children and people with disabilities and medical vulnerabilities have been forced to sleep outside in Vermont, There is a better path forward and we must take it.”

Key recommendations include investing in the statewide infrastructure for Housing First permanent supportive housing statewide; expanding non-congregate shelter to meet the needs of Vermonters in need of interim housing; and addressing the needs of people living with disabilities experiencing homelessness.

Housing First is an evidence-based, federally backed strategy of supporting unhoused individuals and families into housing before addressing other challenges. Many decades of research have shown that the vast majority of people experiencing chronic homelessness can be successfully housed using an evidence-based Housing First approach. Cities and institutions employing these data-informed practices at scale have made dramatic progress in solving homelessness.

Anne Sosin, Public Health Researcher and Practitioner, Dartmouth College: “Rising rents, low rental vacancy, and mounting evictions are pushing an unprecedented number of Vermonters onto the streets and into other dangerous living situations. Vermonters and their elected representatives do not have to accept this, and they shouldn’t. Extensive evidence shows that Housing First is more effective at ending homelessness than conventional approaches. Legislators should draw from that research and experience to enact the proven solutions our communities so urgently need.”

Coalition members underscored the urgent need to adopt evidence-based solutions at a time when  emergency housing programs will end on March 15th and April 1st, forcing thousands more people into unsheltered homelessness and further exacerbating the existing crisis. Speakers urged lawmakers not to repeat the mistakes of last year—in which nearly a thousand people were forcibly unsheltered and hundreds of newly-homeless families were left with nowhere to go—and instead to embrace policies that are firmly rooted in evidence-based Housing First principles.

Rebecca Duprey, Advocate, End Homelessness VT: “As someone who has experienced homelessness myself, I am proof that Housing First works. If everyone has stable housing, the rest will follow. Vermont’s emergency of homelessness is not inevitable. Our community members and neighbors should not have to suffer any longer without safe and stable housing. We have to adopt data-driven policies now to solve homelessness in Vermont.”

Housing First Vermont is an alliance of organizations and individuals, including Vermonters with lived experience of homelessness, to advance evidence-based policies and best practices to solve homelessness in Vermont. Coalition members include ACLU Vermont, Disability Rights Vermont, End Homelessness Vermont, Pathways Vermont, Vermont Center for Independent Living, Vermont Legal Aid, Michael Ruggles, Brenda Siegel, and Anne Sosin.

Falko Schilling, Advocacy Director, ACLU of Vermont: “As decision makers develop new policy solutions this year, it is essential to rely on evidence-based Housing First strategies. Unhoused people are our neighbors, families, and friends. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect—and we all deserve to have safe and secure housing. Choosing to end homelessness makes our communities stronger for all Vermonters.”

Housing First Vermont’s 2024 Policy Recommendations are available here.