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Partners Come Together to Discuss State of Homelessness in Connecticut

5 February 2020

Homelessness is unacceptable, solvable, and preventable — and partners from across Connecticut are coming together to make our state the first to end homelessness for good.

In recent years, Connecticut has been a national leader on this issue. With our system's track record of success, the state has set the ambitious goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and one-time by 2023.

Alicia Woodsby speaks at the Reaching Home Stakeholder Convening.What does Connecticut need to do in order to achieve this goal? On January 31, 2020, partners from across the Reaching Home Campaign came together in order to discuss the state of homelessness in Connecticut. This event included a data update, the unveiling of Reaching Home's 2020 Legislative Agenda, and a lived experience panel featuring Angel Cotto of the Youth Action Hub and Ralph Gagliardo of the Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau.

To start off the event, Beau Anderson of the Connecticut Department of Housing and Alicia Woodsby of the Partnership for Strong Communities provided an update on Connecticut's progress. Overall, 8,262 people experienced homelessness across Connecticut in 2019, a drop of 42% since 2012. Connecticut. The state had seen an uptick in homelessness in 2018, largely due to an influx of evacuees from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. A vast majority of the evacuees were able to find permanent housing, and the following year's Point-in-Time Count showed a 24 percent decrease in homelessness in 2019.

Why is homelessness and shelter use going down in Connecticut? Anderson said that the state's investment in prevention resources is helping to divert people from homelessness before it starts. However, Connecticut's By-Name List still counts over 2,000 Connecticut residents experiencing homelessness, including 313 families and 137 youth.1 Though we've made tremendous progress in reducing the state's overall numbers, we still have far to go in order to ensure that everyone has a safe, stable home.

A panel discussion with Angel Cotto and Ralph Gagliardo.The Stakeholder Convening also featured a panel of people with lived experience. Angel Cotto and Ralph Gagliardo sat down with the Partnership's Carline Charmelus to discuss how Connecticut's response system can better meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness. A full video of the panel discussion will be available shortly; below are some of the major themes that were raised in the discussion.

  • Better outreach, especially for youth experiencing homelessness: Homelessness among young people is rising nationally, and youth experiencing homelessness are especially hard to reach. This is because of the "hidden" nature of youth homelessness — often, young people are "doubled up" or sleeping on a friend's couch, but lacking permanent housing nonetheless. Cotto discussed how, as a young person experiencing homelessness, he had no knowledge of McKinney-Vento Liaisons or other resources available to him. A recent study by his organization, the Youth Action Hub, showed that 54 percent of housing-unstable youth in Connecticut had never heard of the 2-1-1 system. Investing in outreach means better outcomes, better service, and putting young people on a sustainable path to stable housing.

  • Treating people's individual needs: Cotto and Gagliardo both discussed how the "grey area" of homelessness can lead to people falling through the cracks. Rather than focusing on checking boxes, an effective homelessness response system should consider peoples' individual circumstances, wants, needs, and abilities when finding a solution that works for them.

  • Centralized resources: Though Connecticut's response system has many resources for people experiencing homelessness, they can often be inaccessible or hard-to-find, especially for people who don't have access to a phone or computer. Cotto proposed having a centralized resource system so that people experiencing homelessness are able to efficiently access the resources they need.

At the end of the event, the Reaching Home Campaign unveiled its legislative agenda for 2020, which proposes preservation and expansion of Connecticut's homelessness resources, as well as fully funding the CAN system, and protections for youth experiencing homelessness. Click here to read the Reaching Home Campaign's legislative agenda for 2020, and click here to sign up for Reaching Home's advocacy alerts.

1This data was taken from ctcandata.org, a publicly accessible resource on homelessness data in Connecticut.