At a time when many Vermonters are struggling through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression; when average wages are stagnant or falling; when many low and moderate income people are spending 50 percent or more of their limited income on housing; and when we are facing a foreclosure crisis brought about by Wall Street greed; it is no wonder -- in spite of tremendous hard work by housing advocates - that homelessness is on the rise.
On a single day in January of this year - in the dead of Vermont's winter - there were over 2,500 people who were homeless in our state. That is simply unacceptable.
Tragically, the largest growth in Vermont's homeless population is families with children. In fact, fully 32% of those sleeping in Vermont shelters are children.
Four percent of Vermont's homeless are veterans - which is actually much better than the rest of the country. The fact that there are more than 650,000 homeless Americans on any given night is a national embarrassment; the fact that one in six of these homeless Americans is a veteran is a national disgrace.
Clearly, we must build more affordable housing, as part of our larger efforts to rebuild our nation's infrastructure. And, we must implement policies that create good-paying jobs right here in the United States. That is why I strongly believe we must finally fund the National Housing Trust Fund - legislation that I long championed while I was a member of the House of Representatives, and which is now law. The Housing Trust Fund will help build that affordable housing that we so desperately need, and in the process, create millions of new jobs.
But in the meantime, the reality is that we must also tend to the emergency needs of those who find themselves without any housing at all.
I am very proud to stand here with Linda Ryan, of Samaritan House to announce that I have been able to secure a $237,500 grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to improve seven homeless shelters across the state. Of that amount, $30,000 is for Samaritan House to renovate this facility right here in St. Albans. The other grant recipients include:
- Upper Valley Haven in White River Junction;
- Committee on Temporary Shelter in Burlington;
- Open Door Mission in Rutland;
- Morningside Shelter in Brattleboro;
- Dodge House in Rutland; and the
- John Graham Shelter in Vergennes
The expansion and improvement of these seven shelters will provide some comfort and stability to those Vermonters who have lost their homes during these difficult times. In fact, these shelters provide homeless Vermonters with not just a place to sleep, but an opportunity to start rebuilding their lives.