Burlington pod community to open next week with updated rules

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 6:20 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The first residents are set to move into Burlington’s pod community next week. The low-barrier shelter in the Old North End is months behind schedule, and officials on Thursday revealed substantial changes to the rules for those staying there.

The plan is to have five people at a time move into the Elmwood Avenue site. Champlain Housing Trust, which manages the site for the city, says all 30 units are spoken for, with a waiting list of at least another 30 people to get in.

All residents at the site will have to sign off on a guest agreement containing rules and regulations for the site, which include no usage or possession of drugs at the site. Alcohol will also not be permitted to be possessed or used-- a change from what was originally going to be allowed. Residents will be able to drink or use substances off-site during the day.

“They’ll come in in any state they are coming in. We certainly are making sure that if somebody is overusing anything as they come through the door, that we’ll get them the right support that they need. So, we’re going to be really focusing in on sort of changing this habit,” said CHT’s Michael Monte.

Other rules at the site include requiring residents to sign in and out; Getting permission to spend the night offsite; Not allowing guests other than in the community building; And compliance with neighborhood noise laws. Residents can be kicked out if they engage in criminal behavior.

Neighbors who live near the pod community will have phone numbers they can call with concerns at any time. “There’s some amount of confidence that has to be built within the community. Safety, security -- that has to be built in the community itself,” Monte said.

There will be at least two staffers working at all times, including security. Residents can stay six months with an opportunity to extend that. “This is a shelter, it should not be there forever. People should be permanently housed. So, as we support people here, we are most excited for the opportunity to permanently house people,” Monte said.

Ultimately, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says this first-of-its-kind approach in Vermont will be successful if it helps people get on a better path in life. “Some people have described this as a public health approach. I think you put everything together here. It really amounts to a new effort, one we haven’t tried before, one we are really hopeful will have a big impact,” he said.

Monte says they’ll be establishing a community group meeting with staff, residents, and neighbors to make sure the shelter is operating within the neighborhood in a productive way.

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