- Finding a way to address the many associated issues that can hinder rehousing, such as employment, job training, affordable housing, health and human services, financial literacy, childcare, and transportation.
- Participating in a statewide network of providers (the Coordinated Access Network), cooperating to quickly get housing and services for those who need it
- Advocating for affordable housing legislation at the state and local level
- Engaging faith-based communities and business in problem solving
- Carrying the message of the need for affordable housing to every resident of Connecticut
- Raising funds to support housing of the homeless
- Preventing homelessness through one-time financial assistance to those experiencing a housing emergency
Keeping in mind that everyone’s situation is unique, homeless people can be loosely grouped into these basic categories:
Families — Homeless families tend to be headed by a single women in her teens with young children. These moms tend to have limited education and most have been exposed to domestic violence and/or mental illness. With no permanent place to call home, children in these families tend to develop emotional and behavioral disorders and don’t regularly attend school (another destabilizing factor). The majority of these families do not remain homeless for long and are usually able to attain stable housing with little public assistance. Rapid rehousing, which provides limited-time housing until a family is once again self-sufficient, and housing subsidies are some of the best methods to alleviate family homelessness.
Unaccompanied Youth — Youth as young as age 12 become homeless often as a result of family conflict … such as abuse or arguments. Others are exiting the foster care system or juvenile justice system with no place to go. Homeless youth are harder to locate and assist because they do not respond to proven outreach and support methods used with adults. They work hard to be invisible and may, in fact, not consider themselves homeless if they have a place to “crash” each night. Some may fear being forced to: go to a shelter, into foster care, return home, or attend a new school. Research shows higher rates of mental health disorders, chronic physical health conditions, sexual orientation issues and substance abuse among homeless youth than their housed peers. An episode of youth homelessness may profoundly affect someone’s ability to ultimately lead a productive, fulfilling adult life.
Chronically Homeless — These are people who have difficulty finding or maintaining housing once homeless and make up about 20 percent of the homeless population in the U.S. Technically, a person is considered chronically homeless if: he or she is an unaccompanied single adult; disabled; and has either been homeless continuously for one year or more, or has experienced four or more episodes of homelessness in the past three years. Many suffer from severe disability, a mental illness, or an addiction. Because their needs extend well beyond simply needing a home, they are sporadically (and sometimes constantly) in need of emergency shelter and expensive emergency medical care. Permanent supportive housing, which provides a place to live, combined with care oversight, is the proven solution for people who have been chronically homeless.
Veterans — At one time, veterans made up 20 to 25 percent of the homeless population. Most are males, but a growing number are female veterans with dependent children. A nationwide effort, now underway, is making good strides in getting veterans the shelter they deserve. Veterans often become homeless due to a physical or psychological war-related disability. Readjusting to civilian life is very difficult for some veterans. Some may be helped by what’s called rapid rehousing, which provides limited-time housing until a veteran is once again self-sufficient. For veterans with severe difficulties — like traumatic brain injury, sexual trauma, or post-traumatic stress disorder — permanent supportive housing may be the best approach.
The cost of housing — There is an extreme lack of affordable housing in Connecticut.
Housing burden has remained a major problem. Forty-five percent of renters in our region are burdened by the cost of housing, designating more than 30 percent of their monthly budget to cover shelter. Rental housing costs have continued to rise under pressure from high demand, which is likely to increase further as Baby Boomers downsize and the number of low-income families increases. The hourly wage needed to afford a two bedroom apartment is $22.00 per hour and yet the average hourly worker is paid $16.23, a gap of $5.77.
Lack of suitable housing — Many existing homes for sale or rent (while out of reach financially) also do not meet a low-income family’s need for smaller size as well as proximity to their places of work. Housing that is affordable may be in disrepair, highly inefficient to heat, located in dangerous areas, or simply too far from work. In addition, current zoning laws in Connecticut limit the potential for new small or low-cost housing units (to be occupied by working families) to be built in economically prosperous areas.
Poverty — Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked. Difficult choices must be made when limited resources can only cover some the necessities – housing, food, childcare, health care, and transportation. A loss of a job, or an unexpected medical cost or high-dollar emergency can stand between maintaining housing and becoming homeless.
Abuse — Those escaping domestic violence frequently leave home with nothing more than what they’re wearing. Youth fleeing abusive homes, also leave with very little in the way of money or possessions. These groups must start rebuilding every facet of their lives from zero.
So many factors must align for homeless people to regain and maintain safe, stable housing. Is assistance available to partially cover rent and how long with it last? Is the person skilled enough to maintain a job that pays a livable wage? Can the person find work, if unemployed, or get training for a better job? Is public transportation convenient to work and home? Does the cost of housing leave room for other necessities such as food, child care and health care? Does the person need additional support due to disability, mental illness or addiction?
Just in the last few years Connecticut has committed to solving its citizens’ homeless emergencies and find places to live in a whole new way. It’s called a Coordinated Access Network, and it can be reached by phone from anywhere in the state 24 hours a day by calling 2-1-1.
The CAN system recognizes that not everyone’s situation is the same. For instance: Does the emergency involve children? Is the individual under the age of 24, disabled, or a veteran? Has the person been homeless for more than a year? All these factors and more are taken into account as the CAN system works to find suitable rehousing.
The goal is for the person experiencing the housing emergency to receive the housing and services needed to return them to self-sufficiency and independence to the point possible. So, the first order of business is to identify what works best in an individual situation. You can learn more about the CAN’s goals, functions, and process by reading our fact sheet.
Anyone who needs assistance can call 2-1-1 from anywhere in the state and reach a housing specialist who will:
- Talk to them right way
- Make an appointment to meet the person
- Learn more about the person’s situation
- Help the person explore solutions
- Describe housing options best suited to the situation
- Explain any service for which the person may qualify