Teenager hosts party in Bennington, urges governor to help homeless people

BENNINGTON, Vermont (NEWS10) – In an effort to tackle homelessness in the state, Vermont is currently renting hotel rooms for people to stay. The program uses federal funds.

The program, however, is due to expire on October 21 and could put people back on the streets. That’s why 17-year-old Addie Lentzner takes to the streets of Bennington. Lentzner is planning an outing in conjunction with an evening outing in the state capital.

Lentzner urges Vermont Gov. Phil Scott to continue the state’s housing assistance program. “In the last year, during COVID, I think there were around 2,000 people who were staying in motels,” Lentzner says, “so we’ve really seen the number of homeless go up a lot and so there’s has a lot of people in Vermont who are familiar with homelessness.

One man, Leo Leslie, experienced homelessness firsthand. He is one of dozens of people who have been accommodated in state-rented accommodation. He says the hardest part for many is getting to an available hotel.

“They don’t provide rides. Which I think they should. I think they should give them a cab to be safe, ”Leslie says,“ they’re out of danger and I can’t find what I’ve found many times.

Leo says he unfortunately found friends dead because they had no shelter from the elements.

Currently, there is an 84-day limit on how long a person can stay in one of the state-rented rooms. The current extension of housing assistance is set to expire on Thursday, October 21 if the governor does not extend the assistance again.

In June, Vermont ended emergency housing for the homeless because the program is not sustainable, hotel capacity is dwindling and this was never meant to be a permanent solution, according to the Secretary of Social Services , Mike Smith.

“This was possible because public health and travel restrictions have essentially shut down tourism in Vermont and hotels and motels have stepped up,” Smith said during a coronavirus briefing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is reimbursing the state for the cost of nearly $ 79 million of the program, he said. It is expected to reach $ 108 million in fiscal 2022 if changes are not made while federal reimbursement is uncertain, he said.

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