BURLINGTON – The Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) has traditionally focused on short-term solutions to the larger issue of homelessness by providing day stations, shelters, and other services to the homeless or marginally housed. But now they are shifting their mission in the hopes of providing permanent shelter for their clients. The newly formed Committee on Permanent Shelter (COPS) has been training employees on how to provide permanent housing for anyone in need, and will be patrolling neighborhoods in Burlington looking for ways to help.
“It just hit me one day,” said Executive Director Rita Markley, “that it says right in our core values that we do not believe emergency shelter is the solution to homelessness. And if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. I knew we had to do better. We need to house people permanently. I don’t care if we have to build the house right around you, we’re going to get you into a permanent home.”
Markley says she feels the re-brand is also a chance to change some of the connotations among the homeless community regarding the word “cops.” Police have sometimes been accused of being too hard on vulnerable populations. “Now when people yell ‘Hey, look, it’s the cops!’ I want them to be excited about it,” Markley said. “I want them to know that it means they are about to be permanently housed.”
Part of COPS new mission will be to fill up their existing emergency shelters and leave them full as permanent housing. The second part of their new focus will be teams of vigilantes, armed with bricks and mortar, roaming the streets looking for vulnerable populations to house. Markley says she is “tired of waiting for the perfect solution to materialize” and that it is time to dispense some “street justice.” Mayor Weinberger had no comment on COPS or their new mission, but suggested that there may soon be some available housing near the airport.