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CT Homeless Shelters Noticing Alarming Trend

CT Homeless Shelters Noticing Alarming Trend

By Doug Maine
CTLatinoNews.com

While Latinos in Connecticut are overrepresented among clients using the state’s many homeless shelters, staff at the shelters in Hartford and Bridgeport have noticed a new trend. Some families from Puerto Rico  head directly to the shelters upon arriving in Connecticut.

“It is not unusual for individuals to come directly from the airport to the shelter, or to do so after staying very temporarily (usually less than one month) with friends or extended family members that encouraged them to relocate,” telling them about the services they could receive in Connecticut, said Heather K. Pilarcik, South Park Inn’s service coordinator.

At South Park Inn, located on Main Street near Park Street, Hartford’s historically Latino hub, out of the 1,222 unique individuals served in 2012, 464 – or 37.9 percent – identified themselves as Hispanic/Latino. Among the Latinos availing themselves of outh Park Inn’s services, Puerto Ricans predominate.

As in Hartford, the staff at Alpha Community Services YMCA in Bridgeport has seen a trend of entire families coming from Puerto Rico, looking for shelter as soon as they arrive.

It’s a potential problem because there’s not enough room for Connecticut’s homeless in its shelters. According to “Portraits of Homelessness in Connecticut,” a report issued by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness in February 2011, in 2010, “shelters have been over capacity (exceeding 100% of available beds, and unable to serve all those in need) during all of 2010 and much of 2009.” (That is the most recent information available on homelessness levels in Connecticut.)

Carmen Colón, Alpha’s executive director, said, “A lot of times your Latino families double-up longer,” in the local family’s housing so that newcomers won’t have to go to shelters as soon, “to the point of even jeopardizing their own housing status,” if the hosts are in a program such as Section 8. In some cases, both the host and guest families can be left homeless.

Portraits of Homelessness also states that Latinos are disproportionately represented among the population served. “While Hispanic/Latino persons represent only 12.3% of the Connecticut population, they comprised 28% of all emergency shelter and 23% of all transitional housing clients. They also tended to be younger. The most common age of Hispanic/Latino emergency shelter clients was between 18-29 years old, while that of Non-Hispanic/Latino clients was 40-49 years old (31%),” the report said.

Alpha operates the state’s largest family shelter, housing 29 families at a time, with more on a waiting list, and is the largest provider of permanent supportive housing in Connecticut, Colón noted. One problem her agency has had is finding social workers who speak Spanish; the pool of qualified candidates is small.

Hernán Bohórquez, program director of Alpha’s Families-in-Transition program, said, “usually, half of our clients are Latino and most of them come from Puerto Rico. There are very few Latinos here (in Bridgeport) from other countries.”

While it is not clear how many people are arriving from Puerto Rico and going to Connecticut directly to shelters, a contributing factor to this trend may be that unemployment on the island is currently at 14 percent. (Unemployment for those under 25 is estimated to be about 28 percent.)

“One of the reasons, I guess, is that they can get benefits here and we are able to connect them to the benefits,” Bohórquez said. “They’re really starting from zero because they don’t know the city, don’t know the language. Some cases are tough because they don’t have a support system in the city.”

Families can stay for 60 to 90 days in Alpha’s shelter, which is not a lot of time to save money to afford housing, Bohórquez said. “And then for the kids it’s a new place and a new culture, and they have the problem of school,” where they may be bullied.

South Park Inn’s emergency shelter can accommodate up to 85 men, women and children per day. It also offers transitional and supportive housing programs for single men.

Spanish-speaking staff is available on all shifts, and the shelter is staffed 24 hours per day with direct care counselors who provide guidance, support, supervision and security. Individual service coordinators meet with each client and arrange for support services, refer clients to appropriate programs, provide encouragement and assist in finding housing.

 

8 Responses to CT Homeless Shelters Noticing Alarming Trend

  1. deep44 says:

    pls explain why the CT taxpayer is absorbing the cost for these people. While I wish them well, I pay taxes which benefits the community.

    The issue in this article is “or to do so after staying very temporarily (usually less than one month) with friends or extended family members that encouraged them to relocate,” telling them about the services they could receive in Connecticut, said Heather K. Pilarcik, South Park Inn’s service coordinator.”

  2. deep44 says:

    Is the statement above notifying the tax payer we provide free service for those who arrive and have yet to contribute to our society? And yet at the Federal level we are arguing over changing my future benefits which I’ve spent 25 yrs paying into?

    The next time you liberals hear the term ponzi scheme regarding SS or medicare. this article adds credence to the statement

  3. This article, through the one “window” of trends at the Hartford shelters, is an excellent illustration of the complexity and heartbreak of homelessness. The problems are much broader- starting with the economy and especially how it affects the poor.

  4. SteveHC says:

    ““It is not unusual for individuals to come directly from the airport to the shelter, or to do so after staying very temporarily (usually less than one month) with friends or extended family members that encouraged them to relocate,” telling them about the services they could receive in Connecticut, said Heather K. Pilarcik, South Park Inn’s service coordinator.”

    - It’s my understanding that it’s largely up to the shelter operator to determine the policies relating to stays at their own shelter. Assuming this is the case, wouldn’t it make more sense for the operators to employ at least *some* sort of in-state residency requirement in determining whether or not an entire family could stay at their shelter – regardless of whether the family came from Puerto Rico or Rhode Island, for that matter – rather than implying that the problem has been somehow created by “the state” and its “services”? In other words, I don’t see the operators of homeless shelters in Connecticut being entirely “helpless” in this regard.

  5. Concerned American says:

    Deep44: I’d just like to point out that this article’s focus is largely on Puerto Rican families. Puerto Rico is a US territory. Puerto Ricans are US citizens since 1917, but continue to be treated as second class citizens.They pay federal taxes (the personal income tax exemption is very limited and most Puerto Ricans are subject to some form of federal income tax.) They pay into social security, but are excluded from the benefits of SSI. They are subject to selective service and continue to fight in the US military with honor. Yet, they have no voting representatives in Congress. So, as an American citizen, if you were being treated as a second-class citizen with limited means and no realistic avenues for legal relief, what would you do? Go to a different part of the country you’re supposedly a citizen of, where your family or friends live and try to get a start, by taking advantage of the programs specifically created for people who are in this exact situation. Sounds pretty reasonable. A family who wants to realize the American Dream, but have been cut short, because we, the American people, do not think about Puerto Rico as part of America, it’s just a vacation spot, right? We’re Americans, didn’t 43 push the United We Stand, shtick? Let’s be true to the spirit of that slogan and help others regardless of native origin.

    • Sentinel says:

      Puerto Ricans are US citizens, but they do not pay Federal US income tax if they lived the whole year in PR, unless they are US federal government employees or have income earned outside of PR.
      They do pay Social Security taxes and earn Social Security benefits; however, they are not entitled to SSI which is not funded from Social Security, but from the general tax revenue.
      They are subject to the Draft, but the US has not Drafted men for 40 years (women are not subject to the Draft).
      Like all US residents who do not live in a state, they do not have voting members of Congress. Washington, DC residents do not have voting members of Congress. A slim majority of PR residents consistently vote to maintain Commonwealth status over requesting statehood.

      Welfare benefits, like housing programs, are state run programs, even if they get federal block grants. Move from one state to another and you must re-apply – some states have a waiting period.

  6. Not Surprised says:

    Why is anyone surprised by this? CT is know across the country but especially in the Mexican, Puerto Rican and Central American Hispanic ‘community’ as a welfare magnet. Want to live for nothing? Come to CT!! Stupid Yankee taxpayers will feed, house and clothe you.

    One day, not far off in the future, CT is going to have a majority of its citizens either on the dole or working for the government.

    And you know what that means.

    Time to call the moving van.

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