June 19, 2017

A partnership in Vermont is reducing the state’s high homelessness rate

Checking in with 2016 Renewal Awards winner Champlain Housing Trust

Champlain Housing Trust is a community land trust that is helping to end homelessness in Vermont. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images


As The Renewal Project celebrates its one-year anniversary, we occasionally will be checking in with past contributors. Chris Donnelly of Champlain Housing Trust, 2016 Renewal Awards winner, wrote last year about a community partnership that helped erase a seven-year rise in homelessness in Vermont. He updates us on the organization’s progress.

As recent reports document, the housing crisis continues across the country and Vermont is not immune to it. Statewide, homelessness increased by 11 percent in 2016 after several years of progress. Solving social problems, of course, doesn’t usually follow a linear path.

There’s a different story, however, in Chittenden County, the State’s most populous county and where the Champlain Housing Trust operates. Collaboration has continued to see significant improvement in reducing homelessness, by another 12 percent this year and by nearly 50 percent since 2014. And a new CHT property will open this summer, funded in full by the University of Vermont Medical Center, providing more housing for people who have been living in tents, on the streets, or in hospital beds because there is no safe home–or no home at all–to which to be discharged.

Additional help is on the way, and in a nonpartisan effort: after years of CHT’s and other affordable housing leaders’ advocacy for increased investment, the Democratic-controlled State Legislature is poised to pass Republican Governor Phil Scott’s proposal for a $35 million affordable housing bond, which marks the most significant influx of affordable housing capital in Vermont’s history. A quarter of the affordable housing bond will be dedicated to developing housing for very low-income individuals and families–a much needed new resource as the federal budget storm clouds gather above.

Chris Donnelly

Champlain Housing Trust

Chris Donnelly is the Director of Community Relations for the Champlain Housing Trust, where he’s worked since 2005. He manages all external affairs, including advocacy, fundraising, and partner and media communications. He also serves as a co-chair of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Coalition. He has over 25 years of experience in this field working for social justice organizations. He and his family live in Burlington, Vermont.