State wins federal funds to reunite homeless parents with their children

There are hundreds of Connecticut famalies whose children live in foster care because their parents have no home. For 50 of those families, things are about to change.

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration announced Thursday that Connecticut has been awarded $5 million in federal funds that will reunite 50 families by providing them with affordable housing and other services over the next five years.

“The goal of this supportive housing program is to keep families together and help those who are in greatest need get back on their feet,” the governor said in a statement announcing the grant.

State law forbids the Department of Children and Families from removing children from their homes solely because of poverty. But DCF Commissioner Joette Katz told lawmakers earlier this year that she has no alternative for homeless families but to place their children in foster care or group homes because there is limited space in subsidized housing.

The agency reports that each month it refers 100 families with children to the state’s subsidized housing and support program. There are about 800 families on the waiting list.

“Supportive housing is one of the critical ways we can keep more families together and reunify families where a removal was necessary,” Katz said Thursday.


Joette Katz

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz

Evelyn Torres was one of those lucky parents who landed an apartment through the DCF program.

“My daughter was in care of DCF because I was homeless. After this program we reunified again,” the mother of four from Waterbury told the Appropriations Committee earlier this year. “Without support[ive] housing, I don’t know where I would have gone.”

The new affordable housing slots will become available to those in the state’s eastern region — including Norwich, Willimantic, and Middletown — where the department has found the biggest shortage of available affordable housing. For example, when the wait list for Middletown’s affordable housing units opened recently, 50,000 people applied for 1,000 places.

“Expanding this very effective program without additional state resources is an added bonus,” said Katz.

The state budget for the current year provides the housing program with $6.4 million. However, the legislature approved additional funding to construct and renovate 150 new subsidized housing units to be offered to the elderly, disabled and those families at-risk of losing their children to DCF in future years.