News

CHT and Steps to End Domestic Violence Announce New Shelter and Expanded Services

Posted on Wednesday, October 07, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

The Champlain Housing Trust and Steps to End Domestic Violence jointly announced plans to establish a new shelter serving those escaping domestic and sexual violence in Chittenden County. CHT acquired the property with Coronavirus Relief Funds made available in the CARES Act, which were allocated by the State Legislature through the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.

CHT has hired J.A. Morrissey to renovate what had been the Handy’s Extended Stay Suites on Route 15 in Colchester, and will be leasing it to Steps.

A major driver of homelessness is domestic violence – people fleeing their homes, with or without children, to flee abusive relationships. Typically, Steps to End Domestic Violence supports 35 households per night in the State-sponsored hotel system because the current Steps shelter can only house seven in a congregate setting. When the pandemic hit, that number was further reduced to three or four that could stay there safely.

CHT purchased the property at the end of September and is currently renovating the property to provide Steps with increased capacity to serve up to 21 households, with capacity for both individuals and families with children. This work will be complete in the next couple of months.

“While we have recognized the need for a larger shelter facility to better respond to the need for trauma-informed emergency housing for years, the pandemic has only heightened this need and made it more urgent,” said Nicole Kubon, MSW, Executive Director of Steps. “This new shelter will provide us the ability to maintain social distancing, enhance the services we are able to offer and bring the work of ending domestic violence more visibly into the community.”

Compounding the space challenges are those relating to services: with people sheltering at home since the Covid-19 pandemic, domestic violence has skyrocketed. The number of people served by Steps to End Domestic Violence increased from 40 in March, 2019 to 62 this March – an increase of over 50%.

“The Champlain Housing Trust and Steps have been working towards finding a new home for Steps for a couple of years now. CHT was pleased to be able to step in and support this critical community organization that serves people in perhaps their time of greatest need,” said Michael Monte of CHT. “The State’s allocation of these resources through VHCB is helping address this significant need to address people’s safety and health in the midst of a pandemic.”

While the location of the current shelter was kept confidential for the safety of the people staying there, the new one takes a different approach. “The departure from a confidentially located shelter to a publicly located shelter and office space will require heightened security measures but will also provide us with an opportunity to bring the issue of intimate partner violence out of the shadows,” explained Kubon. “It encourages community engagement, support and collective responsibility for the safety of all people in our communities.”

Kubon also stressed that the new shelter “will allow for more dignity for people when their lives are uprooted by violence and can support some added level of normalcy by being able to have family or friends visit during the day, or ordering food delivery on a Friday night. It also means we can stay better connected to survivors once they've re-established their lives, free from violence, in the community.”

Building Homes Together Campaign Releases Progress Report

Posted on Monday, October 05, 2020, by Chris Donnelly

The Building Homes Together Campaign, formed in 2016 to encourage production of housing in Chittenden County, released its annual progress report that showed continued overall success in new housing being created, but a persistent lack of affordable homes.

“Over the first four years of the campaign, we have seen steady development of housing even as we have not kept pace building housing for those having trouble making ends meet,” said Charlie Baker, Executive Director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, which along with the Champlain Housing Trust and Evernorth (formerly Housing Vermont) leads the campaign.


The campaign, supported by over a hundred local and state officials, nonprofits, businesses, and individuals, set a five year goal of 3,500 new homes in Chittenden County with 20% of them permanently affordable. This amounts to an annual target of 700 overall homes with 140 affordable; the average over the first four years is 787 homes, and only 112 of them affordable.

“We did see a spike in 2019 of new affordable homes with 169 built, but that followed three years of missing our target,” added Nancy Owens, co-President of Evernorth. “The increase in 2019 demonstrates that new capital from the Housing for All Revenue Bond passed in the State of Vermont in 2017 was essential to meet this critical housing need, but it hasn’t been enough.”

Other economic, social and public health factors are in play. “While 2020 has been consumed by the coronavirus and calls for racial justice, it’s also been a year where safe, decent and affordable housing has been even more obviously lacking in our communities. We need to do better,” said Brenda Torpy, CEO of the Champlain Housing Trust, noting that at one point this summer there were 2,000 homeless Vermonters living in hotels and motels.


In fact, projections on the number of homes that will become available in 2020 look grim, according to data compiled by Allen, Minor and Brooks. They estimate 255 apartments will be completed, though these projections were made before CHT’s planned motel conversion into 68 apartments was understood, and do not include single family homes. Still, the total of 323 is significantly below the average number of homes added over the past four years.

“While housing production has been steady, we are still not at a good vacancy rate and must build even more housing to get to a healthy housing market in Chittenden County. We call upon all policy makers – local, state and federal – to make housing, especially for low-income households, a priority as we move forward. For the future of learning, health, the economy, racial justice, and more, housing must be at the center of a response as we look to 2021 and beyond,” the three organizations said in a joint statement.


The Building Homes Together campaign was initiated by the Champlain Housing Trust, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and Housing Vermont, now Evernorth, in 2016. The campaign’s goal is to increase the production of housing, setting a target of 3,500 new homes created over next five years, with 700 of them permanently affordable. Over 100 local and state officials signed on to the campaign. More information can be found at http://www.ecosproject.com/building-homes-together/.