Anyone can experience homelessness, there are policies that have contributed to keeping populations out of housing opportunities. Persons who experience a health crisis, financial crisis, or major trauma are at the mercy of these policies in trying to get back on their feet because housing is hard to obtain once it is lost.
The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness is made up of 100 organizations and providers who are dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness. Their members include emergency shelter providers, transitional housing providers as well as community and business leaders. They work to address homelessness statewide through five main work areas, research, and analysis, advocacy and strategic communications, community connections, training, technical assistance, and leadership development and emergency assistance.
This week CTLN Opinion+ spoke with David Gonzalez Rice, the Director of Technical Assistance and Capacity Building for the coalition about the coalition’s goal to end recurring homelessness by 2023, the American Rescue Plan Act, and SB 194, a bill that would prioritize housing as a right in CT.
Connecticut is one of the states with the highest cost of living and has extreme growth inequality. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Planning homelessness was in decline in 2019 by just over 30% but there are more than 4,500 people without a shelter on any given night.
Before and throughout the pandemic, homeless shelters were at full capacity, COVID guidelines and the requirement to maintain a distance of six feet apart left many more susceptible to diseases including COVID-19.
“When you’re homeless, it’s hard to plan long term and make decisions when your brain is in crisis mode. Rice said during our conversation. “We know that even with some of those protective measures that we do think made a difference in reducing incidents of COVID-19 there are real challenges.”
In response to the need that increased during the pandemic, CCEH held conversations with their state partners to come up with a decompression strategy, making shelters adhere to CDC guidelines and providing hotel beds and rooms when necessary. But another global health crisis can happen at any time. Thanks to the stimulus package passed recently by the Biden administration, CCEH and their state partners can plan and advocate for how the funds can be allocated to rethink how shelters are made and to address housing issues.
Homelessness is expensive and the way it is addressed in the U.S. is shameful. It costs federal and state governments more to leave the homeless population as it is than to provide secure housing and healthcare. It stresses our public systems like emergency services and hospitals rather than have people out on the street our public aid can provide a roof and lessen the stress on our emergency services. In talking to Rice about changing the conversation regarding the homeless population he said, “We all win when we are able to get someone a roof over their head …it lifts the whole community up to have someone living in a home.”
For more information about the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, review the links below.
Resources mentioned in the video:
For more information regarding COVID-19 vaccines access and guidance for homelessness
Information and resources for Emergency Assistance
For information about SB194, establishing a right to housing as well as other legislative priorities
Housing First, people experiencing homelessness need the safety and stability of a home in order to best address challenges and pursue opportunities.