Mayor Peter Clavelle

Coordinated Strategy to Prevent Homelessness

Description of Program

Continuum of Care services are delivered through a consortium of nonprofit organizations in the greater Burlington metropolitan area. Components include:

Prevention: Services include assistance with rent arrearages, utility bills and transportation, and tenant advocacy and legal representation.

Outreach, Intake, and Assessment: The Homeless Healthcare Project, a collaborative effort between five nonprofit agencies, provides aggressive street outreach and assessment to identify a person's or family's needs and to make appropriate referrals for medical treatment, mental health services, substance abuse counseling, coordinated case management and vocational services. Experienced outreach teams canvass bus stations, campsites, and vacant buildings. There are also specialized street outreach and assessment programs for homeless youth and homeless persons with HIV/AIDS.

Emergency Shelter and Shelter Services: There are seven emergency shelters in Burlington. COTS Waystation and the Burlington Emergency Shelter provide emergency overnight shelter to single adults, including veterans. COTS Daystation is a daytime shelter for homeless adults and families, and is the central location for accessing support services. COTS Family Shelter serves homeless children and their families, and the shelter operated by Women Helping Battered Women serves homeless women and children fleeing domestic abuse. Spectrum Youth and Family Services operates a one-stop shelter for homeless youth, and the Howard Center for Human Services operates a Safe Haven in Burlington for the mentally ill homeless.

Each shelter offers case management and housing search assistance to help participants move quickly out of shelter into transitional or permanent housing, with necessary follow-up supports for maintaining housing.

Supportive Services: Community-based organizations provide job training and placement, substance abuse counseling and referrals for treatment, medical and dental care, legal advocacy and representation, mental health counseling and residential treatment programs, and housing search assistance.

Transitional Housing: Homeless families can access transitional housing at COTS Families in Transition Program for up to two years while they work on educational and career goals and save money for permanent housing. The Howard Center's Transitional Housing Program, "Branches," provides transitional housing for homeless persons with mental illnesses. Two Oxford Houses, based on the model in Washington, DC, provide drug and alcohol free transitional housing to homeless men exiting residential drug treatment programs.

Permanent and Permanent Supportive Housing: Burlington's inventory of permanent supportive housing includes a range of SRO housing. In addition, a wide variety of permanent housing options exist due to the collaborative efforts of city government, local public housing authorities, nonprofit housing developers, and private landlords.

When and Why Created

Burlington. s Continuum of Care has evolved since 1984 as the result of a community-based process initiated by the nonprofit housing and service providers in collaboration with the City's Community & Economic Development Office, the local business community and homeless individuals and families. It was created in response to some very pressing needs. The number of homeless families and individuals in Vermont has increased by 50 percent over the past 11 years (counting only those who accessed emergency shelters), and requests for shelter for homeless families exceed capacity. Burlington, which is Vermont. s largest city, has the state. s highest concentration of homeless persons. Many of Vermont's homeless come to Burlington from rural areas looking for jobs and for shelter and services that their own small communities can not provide.

In addition to the existing homeless population, many individuals and families are "precariously housed." A renter in Vermont must earn $12.25/hour to afford the fair market rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom unit. Nearly half of all renter households cannot afford the two-bedroom FMR at 30% of their income. Vermont was tied with New York as the second worst state in the country for housing affordability in a national study released in October 1998 by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Measurements of Effectiveness

Providers estimate that they are meeting the shelter needs of homeless individuals, although capacity still needs to increase for families. Nearly 2,000 households at-risk of homelessness accessed emergency support services last year. Job training/development programs are yielding 70% placement rates and wages in the $8 to $10/hour range. One hundred percent of the children staying at Continuum shelters attend school regularly (nationally, only 42% of homeless children in shelters remain enrolled in school). Our model received a "best practice" award from HUD's New England office in 1997.

Financing of Program

Continuum nonprofits are funded through a combination of federal, state, local, private and United Way funds. The City provides CDBG grants for a number of local programs. In addition, the City Housing Trust Fund provides operating support to COTS. Several local banks support the Continuum through direct financial contributions and through financing of permanent and permanent supportive housing projects.

Linkage to City Government

The private, nonprofit Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) serves as the coordinating entity for Burlington. s Continuum of Care. The City's Community & Economic Development Office convenes a monthly meeting of nonprofit housing developers and homeless/tenant advocates to ensure that a reasonable share of the City and federal resources are targeted to the population most at risk of homelessness.

Major Lessons

All sectors (private, public, nonprofit and for-profit) are involved in our community. s Continuum of Care strategy. Service delivery is the role of our nonprofit network. The City. s role is to attract funding and recognition and to help expand and ensure the institutional capacity of the nonprofit system. The business community, in addition to direct financial contributions to homeless agencies and participation by business leaders on the boards of service providers, helps to create direct job opportunities for the homeless. Last winter, for example, the Church Street Marketplace created day-labor job opportunities for homeless persons, providing income to participants and creating safer and cleaner streets for City residents and visitors.

Through our collaborative efforts, we have been able to reduce duplication of and gaps in services, allowing homeless individuals and families to focus on meeting their needs and improving their lives.

Contact Person: Rita Markley, Executive Director Committee on Temporary Shelter P.O. Box 1616 Burlington, VT Telephone (802) 864-7402 ext. 106   Fax: (802) 864-2612

Return to Previous Page.

Home Search

The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352

Copyright 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.