Vermont Leads Region in Percentage of Youth Beds
By: Bethany Pombar, VCRHYP Director
This week HUD released the 2016 Housing Inventory Count Reports. The reports show how many beds are available for people experiencing homelessness on any given night by state. While our small state struggles to ensure that there are enough beds available to shelter all those in need, especially during the long winter, when we look at our numbers compared to our New England neighbors, we can toot our own horn a little.
Vermont has a total of 752 beds available across the state; this breaks down to about 1.2 beds available for every 1000 people. Regionally, this ranks us 3rd, behind Massachusetts with a whopping 2.65 beds per 1000 and Maine with 1.87 beds.
8% (62) of our total number of beds are dedicated youth transitional living and emergency shelter, which puts us well ahead of our regional partners, with Maine being second with 4% of their total beds specifically for youth and New Hampshire in third with 3%. This also signifies an increase from the 2015 report which showed 6% of Vermont beds being dedicated to youth.
This exemplifies the commitment VCRHYP and our partners have to ensuring that the unique housing needs of youth are met and illustrates the strength of our coalition model in leveraging resources. We wish this meant that we had enough beds, that we didn't have youth that were still staying in precarious and unsafe living situations instead of being on the streets and that we could shelter every youth that comes to our door, it doesn't.
Coalition members still struggle with meeting the housing needs of our youth. There isn't enough affordable housing in our communities, or enough landlords willing to take a chance on a young person in a competitive rental market. We still don't have enough capacity to create and sustain adequate emergency shelter (only 2% of all emergency shelter available in VT is dedicated and safe for unaccompanied youth); and we have weathered flat funding for nearly a decade. I don't say this to diminish our accomplishments, but to add some context to our little trumpet song. Our advocates have become experts on doing a lot with a little. While we still have a lot of work to do to build our capacity to shelter and house all youth and clear our waiting lists, we are moving in the right direction.