Happy holidays! For those of us working to end homelessness, the holiday season is an especially busy and important time. Winter weather means that Connecticut’s homeless services network goes into overdrive, working to ensure that everyone has a safe place to get inside from the cold, while continuing to work to help people reconnect to a stable home. It is the season of giving, when we seek to appeal to the generosity of our supporters to help us bring an end to the tragedy of homelessness in our state.
It is also a time of reflection. On the evening of the winter solstice, we commemorate Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, a day when we remember those who lost their lives due to homelessness, help others to recognize that homelessness is a life-and-death matter, and recommit to ensure that no person should ever have to sleep outside.
I have been hearing that communities around the state are concerned about whether the number of people experiencing unsheltered homelessness is rising. We see men and women holding signs at intersections or sleeping in doorways, and towns and cities are discovering communities living in encampments and in abandoned buildings. As always, we must use our data to determine whether unsheltered homelessness is truly rising or simply more visible, and one of the tools we have to understand the scope of sheltered and unsheltered homelessness is the Point-in-Time Count. This newsletter includes links to both the Point-in-Time and Youth Count registrations and I hope that each of you will not only consider volunteering but also helping us engage others in your communities to join you. We will need leadership from all corners of the state to develop an accurate count which we will use to advocate for state and federal resources so please set aside January 21st and the week thereafter to help with these important data collection initiatives.
This newsletter also includes some information on a recent Supreme Court decision that, in effect, upholds the idea that arresting and jailing people for sleeping outside violates our right against cruel and unusual punishment as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. It affirms that the only true solution to homelessness is, and remains, to help people keep or reconnect to a stable home.
As I conclude, I want to thank each and every one of you for your contributions to our efforts. For many of you, it is the day-to-day work you do to directly assist clients facing homelessness, and we couldn’t be more grateful to you for the work you do day in a day out to help some of the most vulnerable people in our state. For others of you, it is your power to engage with us in other ways — as legislators, donors, partners, and advocates. Whoever you are and whatever brings you to our work, I am grateful for your commitment to helping our coalition move closer to our goal of making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring for our neighbors.
Wishing you a very happy holiday and looking forward to seeing you in the new year.