Municipalities are Essential Partners in Effort to End Chronic Homelessness
September 14, 2016
Hartford-Earlier this year Department of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein reached out to leadership of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities to solicit their support for Zero: 2016, a campaign to end chronic homelessness in Connecticut this year. The city of Manchester responded to the call – Mayor Jay Moran pledged to support the campaign by partnering with local providers and providing a $1,000 donation to the local Zero: 2016 effort.
The Zero: 2016 Campaign is a national initiative to end chronic and veteran homelessness by the end of this year. The effort is led in Connecticut by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness and the Partnership for Strong Communities, working closely with the Departments of Housing and Mental Health and Addiction Services as well as other state partners. “Chronic homelessness” is defined as long-term or repeated homelessness of an individual living with a severe disability.
In August 2015 Connecticut was the first state to end chronic homelessness among veterans, and in February the federal government designated Connecticut as one of only two states that have ended homelessness among all veterans. The 2016 Point –in-Time count, an annual census of homelessness, revealed that the state has the lowest population of homeless since the statewide count began in 2007, including a 20% decrease in chronic homelessness since 2015. These numbers depict the ground-breaking success across the state, and the building momentum to end chronic homelessness.
“Too often we accept homelessness as a fact of life,” Commissioner Klein wrote in her letter to elected local officials, “but we know better in Connecticut. As our data shows, we can end homelessness. In fact, we are ending homelessness.”
Vernon’s Cornerstone Shelter is a proud participant in the Greater Hartford Coordinated Access Network, which is an integrated homeless response team involving all local providers of homeless services to identify and house those in most need as quickly as possible.
Through this collaborative, Cornerstone has recently secured housing for two of their chronically homeless clients. One of these individuals, who is 61 years old and disabled, will be housed for the first time in 14 years. According to Shelter Director Bryan Flint, he was self-sufficient until he lost his job after suffering an injury just before the Great Recession. Even then he “didn’t want anyone taking care of him.”
The lengthy stretch of homelessness, followed by an arrest record related to sleeping in garages and stealing food, also made him skeptical of assistance. “It may seem like the homeless have a multitude of problems,” Flint explains, “but in my experience it often begins with the homelessness itself, and then other problems arise out of the lack of safe and secure housing.” Cornerstone has helped Bob to secure an apartment, and with the $1,000 contribution from the city of Manchester, they bought basic furnishings and necessities to outfit the new home
As Christians, many Cornerstone workers are motivated by their faith to serve the community. But they believe that housing the most vulnerable members of the community is not only the morally right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do. “If we don’t help people properly, it costs taxpayers a lot more money. It’s a sad state of society for some to be motivated by finances, but if you are, then Housing First works” Bryan Flint explained. The Housing First approach entails offering housing without preconditions for those experiencing homelessness. Research shows that people experiencing homelessness are better able to address other issues – like mental health or substance abuse– once they are housed, not before.
When chronic homelessness persists on our streets and in our shelters, research shows, communities incur high costs through our emergency services, hospitals, and criminal justice system. Providing housing and adequate supports can actually save up to 70% of the costs that our local and state public systems incur when these residents remain homeless. Given these savings, local communities have a lot to gain from ending chronic homelessness.
Last month the Department of Housing verified that Connecticut is on track to end chronic homelessness by the end of this year. With almost 1,000 of these “high need” individuals housed since the beginning of last year, Congressional representatives from the House and Senate met with local providers and advocates to celebrate the progress toward this important achievement.
“With only a few months left before the deadline, it’s more important than ever to pledge your support or get your community involved to contribute to the Zero: 2016 initiative,” said Lisa Tepper Bates, Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. “Together we will end chronic homelessness this year and move forward in the mission of ending all homelessness.”
To learn more about the Zero: 2016 initiative to end chronic homelessness in Connecticut, please click here. To support your local homeless providers end chronic homelessness this year, please contact Sarah Chess at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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