shelters

Two Burlington shelters find new homes with more space

Burlington’s North Beach campground, shown here, was used to house homeless people in campers, and then tents. Now, it appears more permanent options are coming to Burlington. Photo by Jim Welch/VTDigger

BURLINGTON — Since March, the Burlington homeless shelter ANEW Place has been on the move. When the pandemic forced residents and staff out of its downtown location, the shelter offered housing in RVs at North Beach, and then, three months later, moved guests to tents at the beach campground.

Now, ANEW Place may finally get a permanent home.

An emergency resolution passed by the City Council on Monday night will allow ANEW Place to buy and move into what is now the Champlain Inn near the rotary on Shelburne Road. The shelter is just waiting for final approval on funding from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board — which ANEW Place director Kevin Pounds says he is “really hopeful” will come through, now that the city council has signed off on the plan.

Just two months ago, hope was dwindling for Pounds and his staff. On Aug. 6, the city nixed a proposal for micro-housing units for ANEW Place guests, leaving the shelter scrambling to find a new solution as cold weather loomed. 

In years past, the shelter opened its doors each November, and provided housing through the winter for up to 40 people without homes. But the congregate accommodations at its downtown location do not allow for social distancing.

“Our backs were against the wall, like — what are we going to do?” Pounds told VTDigger. “It did feel like a miracle for the opportunity at the Champlain Inn to pop up that quickly.”

A second piece of good news

ANEW Place was just the first social service agency providing shelter to a vulnerable population to receive good

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Nursing homes to organize their own COVID testing as state focuses on testing in jails, homeless shelters | Health

The state Department of Health and Human Services has been negotiating with COVID-19 testing labs to run the state’s regular testing of nursing home staff, but announced last week that nursing homes will soon have to organize those tests themselves.

Each facility will make its own contracts with testing labs, Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette told nursing home administrators in a phone conference last week, and the state will reimburse up to $100 per test.

“It still provides the funding and the support that is needed to have a good surveillance program,” Shibinette said.

In the event of another outbreak at a nursing home, Shibinette said, the state will again organize and pay for testing. The state provided nursing home administrators with a list of labs that can process tests and contact information for each, and Shibinette expects most nursing homes to have contracts and be running their own testing programs in two weeks.

Shibinette said she hoped turning over that responsibility to nursing homes would free up the state’s capacity to organize regular testing in other congregate living settings, including homeless shelters and jails, to detect more cases early.

The state still dictates how often the tests need to be conducted, what kinds of tests are used and how many staff need to be tested.

Every fourth week, all nursing homes will have to test their entire staff. On the other weeks, nursing homes will randomly pick 10% of their staff to get tested.

But the cost of testing can vary. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center charges $102 for COVID tests, according to the hospital’s website. A review of COVID test prices by the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/brief/covid-19-test-prices-and-payment-policy/ found wide variation in how much tests cost. Some providers charge less than $50 per

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