Report: Shelters unable to accommodate the needs of the homeless

For the last year there has not been enough room in homeless shelters to house everyone in need, a new report released Tuesday says, leading to “scores of people” being turned away because there is no space for them.

“We are at capacity 24/7. The day we opened with 50 additional beds we were full,” said Rich Luchansky, the associate director Immaculate Conception Shelter and Housing, a 135-bed facility for homeless men in Hartford.

This problem is not unique to Hartford, with shelters across the state having to turn people away because there is no room. From June 2008 to October 2010, the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness says, shelter use has increased, and in June 2009 the facilities had more people seeking a place to stay then there were beds available. The 52 shelters statewide, both public and private, in the most recent reporting period were 103 percent full with about 2,265 homeless people staying in a shelter.

KellyAnn Day, the executive director of New Haven Home Recovery, said her two shelters have to tell between 3 to 10 families a day there is no room.

“When a bed opens up, it’s not vacant for long,” she said, noting that demand for a spot in one of the shelters increased by 300 percent from July 2009 to July 2010. “And that’s not even a cold month of the year.”

At any given time, CCEH says there are 3,200 homeless people across the state — with about 40 percent homeless because of domestic violence, many just released from jail with no where else to go and others because of disabilities or drug dependence.

“The emotional reaction is we will take everyone and save them, but if every shelter is at capacity then we call 2-1-1 and hope they will maybe find somewhere for them to go,” Luchansky said.

But too often there is no place for them to go, which CCAH and Day said leads families to either sleep outside, in their cars or in other dangerous places.

Day said she is routinely told horror stories by those who come to stay at her shelters, such as children sleeping on the floor in a one bedroom apartment where 10 people live.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports these high-occupancy living situations — known as doubling up — is frequent in Connecticut. They estimate 40,000 people live in such apartments because there is no room in shelters.

Carol Walter, the executive director of CCEH, said that to overcome this problem affordable housing must be made available.  She also said the state needs to ensure that all eligible homeless people receive the financial benefits they are entitled to. CCEH reports almost half of those in shelters have no income.