The Montpelier Homelessness Task Force recently put forth a budget request proposal to the Montpelier City Council to consider funding four specific items in the 2021 budget (in addition, two of these requests are included for the current 2020 budget, as well, i.e., for the initial setting up of storage lockers at $750, as well as bathrooms at $3,000, total 2020 fiscal year funding request $3.750):
— Continued funding for public bathrooms, cost $3,000.
— Continued opening extension funding for an overflow homeless shelter in Montpelier operated by Good Samaritan Haven (allowing the facility to open two weeks earlier in the autumn and remain open two weeks later in the spring than state funding currently provides; also includes funds for assisting those living homeless outdoors who are not able to stay at the overflow shelter, cost $15,000).
— Funding of two part-time street outreach positions (20 hours per week each, cost $28,400, includes $5,000 for incidentals fund).
— General responsiveness fund (i.e., flexible funds with which “to initiate innovative solutions that bring the city towards the goal of having every person experiencing homelessness off the street at night and moving toward being permanently housed,” cost $10,000).
Total 2021 fiscal year funding requests: $56,400.
During its meeting Jan. 8, the City Council asked the task force what it would do with $45,000 instead.
The problem is, this amount of funding is not quite enough to attempt to address some of the many urgent unmet needs of people living homeless within our community.
As someone who has previously lived without permanent housing (aka, homeless) over the course of many years, I would ask the City Council seriously reconsider its decision and support, as well as fund each of the items for the full amount being requested by the Homelessness Task Force.
Furthermore, I would state, although there is, of course, a financial cost associated with funding each of these specific requests, it should be kept in mind about how there is also a cost associated should these requests not be funded, not merely in financial terms, but also in human terms.
In my opinion, while providing permanent housing, as well as related support services, is, indeed, the best means to help meet the various urgent unmet needs of people living homeless, in the meantime, what is being requested by the task force will be very helpful to those currently living homeless within our community.
Not having access to these various resources took a huge toll on me. I know and remember well what it was like. It made enduring difficult circumstances much worse, truth be told, virtually unbearable.
Based upon my many years of lived experience with homelessness, having ready access to public bathrooms, storage lockers to store a sleeping bag and the like, someplace to safely shelter inside from the elements, as well as someone providing peer street outreach could have made a meaningful difference, particularly when most needed.
In fact, with the mutual trust, as well as meaningful relationship that can be built from it, peer street outreach could have likely brought a quicker end to my homelessness than had been the case.
In addition, having someplace to safely shelter inside from the elements should never be underestimated for that matter, either.
Without some form of inside shelter, where are people living homeless expected to go and how are they expected to survive, most especially during the winter months, including late autumn and early spring?
City council members, as well as members of the public, should carefully ponder what life would be like if they or members of their family were living homeless.
What would they want for either themselves or their family members, at least until they could become housed again?
Would it not be well worth fully funding each and all of these proposals?
To my way of thinking, the answer to the latter question is clearly “yes,” yes, indeed.
Morgan W. Brown lives in Montpelier.