News

Champlain Housing Trust to Buy Burlington Motel to House Homeless

Posted on Friday, December 09, 2016, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) and University of Vermont Medical Center announced a new effort today to address homelessness through an innovative partnership that deepens the connection between housing and health care.

Using funds invested by the medical center, CHT will purchase and convert the Bel Aire Motel on Shelburne Street in Burlington into eight rental apartments to house people who are either frequent users of health care services or who are patients but no longer need hospital care. The apartments will house twelve residents who lack a safe place to call home in order to recover. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions [PDF].
The tenants will be supported by a caseworker from the Community Health Centers of Burlington. In addition to a capital commitment, the UVM Medical Center is pledging its support for operating costs. The same three organizations have collaborated on other successful efforts to reduce homelessness at properties in Shelburne, South Burlington and Burlington, with a video produced on the benefits of this partnership.
One such collaboration resulted in a 60% drop over one year in the cost of providing medical care to a small group of people experiencing homelessness, saving more than $1 million. The rate of homelessness has dropped by 31% in Vermont according to the most recent annual Point-in-Time count, much of this success due to these types of partnerships and new initiatives. The reduction came on the heels of seven years of growing numbers of people without a home.
“The purchase of the Bel Aire and conversion to apartments is part of a larger successful, coordinated strategy to house people experiencing homelessness,” said Michael Monte, COO/CFO of the Housing Trust. “The UVM Medical Center’s involvement has been critical and we look forward to transforming the property in the coming months.”
“These patients deserve to be in the supportive community setting they need to improve their health, and the Bel Aire apartments will provide that,” said Dr. Stephen Leffler, chief medical officer at the UVM Medical Center.  “Our mission is to work with others to improve people’s lives, and there is no better example than this collaborative approach to addressing a critical housing need.  This is exactly the kind of investment we need to make if we’re going to achieve the goal of improving the health of our communities while controlling costs.”
The property will be purchased by mid-December and renovations will be made over the winter with expected occupancy in April. The building will be converted into six studio or one-bedroom apartments, one 2-bedroom apartment and one 4-bedroom apartment. The apartments will house tenants with a range of supportive needs, ranging from case management to live independently to those who will benefit from medical respite – or patients who don’t need hospital care but who are unable to recover on the street or in tent encampments.
CHT will be submitting a permit for the changes to the property soon. The adaptation will bring the motel, currently a non-conforming use in the City’s zoning regulations, into zoning compliance. No additional buildings or construction to expand the foot print of the property is planned.

Ending Chronic Homelessness

Posted on Tuesday, July 12, 2016, by Chris Donnelly


Last year the Champlain Housing Trust made a commitment to end chronic homelessness in our region. This commitment was grounded in collaboration – working with a variety of partners to solve what has seemed an intractable problem. 

Collectively, we are making good progress, and there's a video below that describes some of this work, or you can click here to go straight to YouTube and see it.

Chronic homelessness declined 31% last year. Already this year, working with the Burlington Housing Authority and others, another 40 individuals or families experiencing homelessness moved into one of CHT's affordable apartments. 

But there’s more to be done. Harbor Place, the motel we've been running since 2013, still provides needed accommodations and services every night to dozens of people who have no other place to turn.

For taxpayers, homelessness is expensive: a study done in San Francisco showed it costs $80,000 each year in a myriad of programs to serve people who are homeless in that city. Providing housing with services costs 56% less – and results in increased stability, dignity and opportunity. 

Out of our efforts, new partnerships have evolved that have similarly shown immediate results, and promise lasting impact. The UVM Medical Center looked at data from the 95 patients they discharged to Harbor Place and documented a savings of almost $1 million in health care costs from these guests, along with a 42% reduction in Emergency Department visits and 68% fewer inpatient admissions. If we can demonstrate this type of result from a motel, we're certain that permanent housing will have even more of an impact. 

Our work with Community Health Centers of Burlington resulted in creating Beacon Apartments in South Burlington, a former motel CHT acquired and converted to 19 apartments for people who have been chronically homeless and with medical vulnerabilities. In the video below, you’ll meet John Graves, a Beacon Apartment resident – and former guest at Harbor Place, who speaks about how he now has a place to store his belongings and can aspire to get work. Safe Harbor provides case management with funding from the UVM Medical Center and Vermont Community Foundation.

Most of us feel compassion for those in need. Many agree there's a moral imperative to help. Even if we ignore these motivations, it's clear new approaches to addressing homelessness are needed. We've been spending more to keep people homeless than it costs to provide a home. 

More than hope, we have confidence. With the partnerships and collaboration underway, tackling big problems like ending chronic homelessness don’t seem so insurmountable anymore.


A New Challenge

Posted on Friday, January 16, 2015, by Chris Donnelly

We know that decent, safe and affordable housing is a key factor in determining health and well-being, both on an individual basis but also in our neighborhoods. We know this is true with people who are homeless, and that the chronically homeless present a special challenge in the provision of health care and supportive services.

We need to expand the supply of affordable housing with supportive services in a variety of settings that work.

In order to address this issue, the CHT has issued itself a challenge: create 40 homes with services for the chronically homeless and 30 homes for homeless families. To succeed, we will need to partner with several community agencies and funders. Our newest initiatve to meet this challenge is Beacon Apartments, a repurposed motel in South Burlington to provide permanent housing with services for 19 chronically homeless single adults who are medically vulnerable. Our partners on this effort are the Safe Harbor Clinic of the Community Health Centers of Burlington, and the Burlington Housing Authority.

Affordable Homes' Impact on Health

Posted on Sunday, September 14, 2014, by Chris Donnelly

In the second of a series of papers on how affordable housing impacts other pieces of our lives, the connection between health and housing is becoming better understood. In Housing and Health: The Importance of Place, we delve into some of these impacts. As Megan Sandel, M.D., M.P.H., and Deborah Frank, M.D. write, "For many of our patients, a safe, decent, affordable home is like a vaccine—it literally keeps children healthy.”

For more information on this series of papers, contact Chris Donnelly at the Champlain Housing Trust or Kenn Sassorossi at Housing Vermont.

Photo credit: CC image Older man and nurse using blood pressure by Tunstall on Flickr [cropped]