News

CHT Buys St. Joseph School

Posted on Monday, July 31, 2017, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust announced today that it has purchased the St. Joseph School on Allen Street in the Old North End from the St. Joseph Co-Cathedral Parish Charitable Trust for $2.15 million. The acquisition was made with plans to transform the building into a multi-purpose community center serving not only the residents of the neighborhood, but the rest of Burlington and greater region.

“This is a major milestone in our plans to create a home for so many critical programs serving such a diversity of people,” said Brenda Torpy, CEO of the Champlain Housing Trust. “We’re looking forward to the next phases of activity and renovation, to fully breathe new life into what will become a great community resource. We deeply appreciate working with both the Parish and Roman Catholic Diocese of Vermont in this transaction.”

To make the building accessible and serve immediate needs, CHT has already installed a new elevator and is putting in a commercial kitchen. Facilitating the purchase and these renovations was bridge financing from the Vermont Community Loan Fund ($2.3 million) and a charitable investment by the Vermont Community Foundation ($500,000).

The loan from the Vermont Community Loan Fund is the largest in its history.

“We are very excited to be underwriting CHT’s efforts to create a community center in Burlington’s Old North End,” said Will Belongia, Executive Director of the Loan Fund. “They have been such a strong and steady partner over the years, and the vision that they brought forward of creating a vibrant center made this an easy project to want to be involved with.”

“As we think about our mission, we know that projects like the purchase and renovation of the St. Joseph School is integral to the health and vitality of Vermont communities,” said Dan Smith, CEO and President of the Foundation. “This new community center will bring together thousands of Vermonters, young Vermonters and older ones, new citizens and longtime ones. We’re looking forward to seeing this building flourish in the coming years.”

An additional $7 million is being sought from a variety of sources as long term equity and financing, and for needed renovations including new heating and cooling, windows, electric and plumbing, technology and energy efficiency improvements.

Existing tenants – Robin’s Nest Children’s Center, Association of Africans Living in Vermont, and the Family Room – approached CHT two years ago when the school was put on the market. CHT agreed to look at purchasing and renovating the building, and the community center concept gelled when the City of Burlington’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department expressed interest in renting a significant portion of the building. The BPRW Department has begun to move their programs into the building and will be subleasing space to other programs or organizations in addition to using it for their own offerings.

At this point, until the remaining resources are secured, further renovations are on hold. You can follow the project's progress on Twitter: @StJoesONE.


Bel Aire Motel Converted to Apartments to House Homeless

Posted on Wednesday, July 26, 2017, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust, UVM Medical Center, community leaders and other partners came together today to celebrate the opening of the Bel Aire Apartments in Burlington’s South End. The former motel has been converted to eight apartments that will become home to 12-15 people.

The new apartments, owned by the Champlain Housing Trust (CHT), will house people who have experienced chronic homelessness or who are living in unsafe conditions that would inhibit their ability to recover from a medical condition. Case management and social work from the Community Health Centers of Burlington will provide services to residents. This is the latest step in a coordinated campaign to end homelessness in Chittenden County, one that has contributed to a nearly 50% reduction in the past three years, according the annual Point in Time count.

CHT’s purchase and renovation of the property was made possible by a grant from the UVM Medical Center. The UVM Medical Center is also providing funding for case management and operations. Earlier collaborations in Vermont – and similar programs around the country – demonstrate health savings that outweigh the cost of the housing while helping people become healthier.

“If a patient is discharged from the hospital without a safe and reliable place to store medication or simply to sleep, it can be difficult to avoid a trip back to the Emergency Room,” said Eileen Whalen, President and Chief Operating Officer at the UVM Medical Center. “By helping the patients we serve who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless, we help them focus on getting better and save health care dollars.” 

“Four years ago, we committed to redoubling our efforts towards virtually eliminating homelessness in our region,” said Brenda Torpy, CEO of Champlain Housing Trust. “Today is another, very important step towards that goal, and we can’t thank the UVM Medical Center enough for their partnership.”

The former motor lodge with 12 rooms was a family-run business originally built in the 1960s. The location and structure of the building lent itself almost perfectly for this adaptation and next chapter in its life. The renovation was managed by 2nd Generation Builders. The property now has one efficiency, five 1-bedroom, one 2-bedroom and one 4-bedroom apartment. Five of the apartments will subsidized through a voucher made available by the Burlington Housing Authority; the remaining will be covered by the UVM Medical Center. More information can be found on a "Frequently Asked Questions" sheet [PDF].

The apartments will come furnished and Burlington Telecom is providing discounted rates to the residents. CVOEO’s Weatherization Program provided support for the building renovation, and local businesses donated plants for window boxes.

The UVM Medical Center will fill three apartments with patients for whom continued hospital stay is not necessary, but may not have a safe place to recover. The remaining five will be people identified by community organizations as most in need, as determined by an ongoing assessment coordinated by the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance. Tenants will move in mid-August.

“Congratulations to the Champlain Housing Trust and UVM Medical Center for coming together with this innovative partnership to create the Bel Aire Apartments,” Mayor Miro Weinberger added. “The City of Burlington is committed to do anything within our means to end chronic homelessness. Housing First strategies are proven to work, and we are excited that efforts like this one at the Bel Aire will make significant headway to address this issue.”

The conversion of the Bel Aire is the latest in a series of collaborative efforts with these partners and others. Harbor Place, a motel in Shelburne, has provided emergency lodging for people with no other place to turn. It has saved the state over $1 million and saved an estimated $1 million in health care costs – all while being more effective at helping people find permanent housing.

Beacon Apartments in South Burlington used to be the Ho Hum Motel. It is now home to 19 people who had been chronically homeless with medical vulnerabilities. That property opened in January, 2016

For more information and a short video on these partnerships, please visit: www.getahome.org/housing-is-healthcare. If you are interested in providing support for these initiatives, please contact Chris Donnelly.