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Addie Lentzner and a group of local residents protested last month in downtown Bennington over the planned cancelation of the state's motel voucher program. 

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My name is Addie Lentzner. I am a 17-year-old student from Bennington, and I am representing the 80 youth who have signed multiple letters to the Governor and participated in actions surrounding the reinstatement of the GA Motel Program.

I can speak for all of us in saying that today we are proud to be Vermonters. Gov. Scott fully reinstated the GA Motel Program for any individual or family who needs shelter at least through the winter. This means that nobody will have to freeze outside in 30 degree snowy weather.

I want to thank Brenda Siegel and Josh Lisenby, two of the most effective advocates I know. Sleeping outside for almost a month to push for this action was not easy, with bright lights in their face and freezing temperatures that warranted dozens of hand warmers. Yet they persevered until the end, and I am immensely proud to be part of their team.

I want to thank the dozens of youth, legislators, lawyers, and advocates who have helped along the way, including everyone who called the Governor. You have made this happen. All of our small pushes from around the state have snowballed into the change we needed. This is how advocacy is done. From press conferences to petitions, sleep-outs to letter campaigns, Vermonters came together to ensure everyone has a roof over their head this winter. And the effects of this success don’t stop after this year.

In honor of family friend Thierry Hegua, who died outside while experiencing homelessness in winter 2020, I had a dream that the GA Motel Program would be used as a bridge to ensure that nobody had to sleep on the streets again. I had hoped that this motel program would continue until affordable housing was available for all in need, and that Vermont would finally end homelessness. For a time this summer and fall, I was unsure this dream would ever come true. I thought maybe it was a childish idea that Vermont could be a model to the nation with addressing homelessness. I almost dismissed this thought.

However, now it’s becoming reality. The full reinstatement means we have time to buckle down on longer term solutions. The Legislature will come to session in January, and their first priority should be housing. They must use the ARPA money to secure enough housing to meet the state’s needs. With people guaranteed shelter until March, legislators will have three months to work with advocates and the administration to ensure that people can be transitioned from motels to permanent or transitional housing rather than the street. Now is our chance to end homelessness, and I am not being naive in saying that. It can come true if we dedicate ourselves to the task right now, rather than in February when the time is almost up.

We have a lot of work to do from here. We are not going away yet! But first, let’s celebrate this win!

Addie Lentzner is a student at Arlington Memorial High School.


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