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County losing local housing advocate

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By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Efforts to link low-income people with affordable housing in Addison County will experience a setback in June, when the state lays off a worker who had been providing such services.

For more than a year, Ingrid Pixley has served as “field services specialist” for Addison County, a state job in which she worked with various state agencies (including the Vermont Agency of Human Services) and local nonprofits to secure low-cost housing for people who need it.

“She has been working closely with these people to make sure they get the services they need to succeed,” said Helen Freismuth, co-director of the United Way of Addison County, which is one of the organizations with which Pixley has been collaborating.

Pixley’s position is due to be phased out as a result of the state’s budget crunch. The loss of her job would represent the latest in what has been a series of rescissions to state services in Addison County. Those cutbacks hit home in late January when Middlebury’s Probation and Parole office closed and its workers were reassigned to neighboring Rutland and Chittenden counties. That office closing also resulted in the elimination of a collaborative program with the Addison County Sheriff’s Department that saw low-risk offenders perform community service projects for area nonprofits. Addison County also last year lost its “field services director,” a state worker who helped coordinate human services. The county currently shares a field services director with Rutland County.

Cuts could extend into next fiscal year, as four positions within the Vermont Department of Health office in Middlebury are currently slated for elimination.

“Once again, Addison County appears to be targeted,” Rep. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln, said on Thursday of the impending cut of Pixley’s position. “The result of this cut will be that more Addison County families will go without the help they need.”

Pixley’s tasks, to date, have included:

• Coordinating the Addison County Housing Solutions program, which assists hard-to-place tenants in getting affordable housing.

• Overseeing a heating fuel assistance fund recently established by area nonprofits and clergy.

• Fielding phone tips from people aware of homeless people in the area who need help.

• Furthering the work of the Middlebury Transitional Care Coalition, a church effort to provide meals, emergency shelter and other services to needy people.

“I’m definitely busy,” Pixley said. “Housing seems to be a really busy initiative.”

Richard Giddings is field services director for Rutland and Chittenden counties. He said the state will do its best to continue the work that Pixley has been performing as field services specialist.

“Ingrid has been able to focus 40 hours a week on housing,” Giddings said. “Even with me coming to Addison County two or three days a week, I won’t be able to cover 40 hours.”

That said, Giddings promised to look at Pixley’s workload and find ways to absorb those tasks, as much as possible, within the state’s existing network of service providers in Addison County.

“I believe almost everything on the list will be able to be picked up,” Giddings said.

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