State homelessness at lowest point in 12 years, study finds
Connecticut’s homeless population fell 10 percent since last year and is currently at its lowest number since the state began collecting data in 2007, according to a report released Thursday by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.
On the night of Jan. 22, 3,033 people were experiencing homelessness statewide, according to this year’s Point-In-Time Count — an annual single-night census of homeless youth, families, adults, and veterans, the coalition reported.
While the state’s homeless population decreased 10 percent since last year’s count, it fell a record 32 percent in the last five years — signaling that efforts since 2014 have been the most effective in curbing the epidemic. The state prioritized the prevention of long-term homelessness among people with disabilities in 2014, according to the coalition.
Richard Cho, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, said the study reaffirms the coalition’s estimate that on any given day there are at least 3,000 people without a place to call home in Connecticut, which means there is still work to be done.
“These results show that the system we built is largely working,” Cho said. “But the need is actually greater than we can keep up with. Right now, our system is roughly housing the same number of people that fall into homelessness. We are housing about 200 households a month, but another 200 end up falling into homelessness. We clearly need to scale up our performance as well as our resources.”
This year’s count — which creates a snapshot of the number of homeless people who live outdoors, in emergency shelters or in transitional government or non-profit-sponsored housing — revealed downward trends across multiple categories of homelessness and slight increases among youth and veterans.
The coalition identified 50 veterans living in emergency shelters this year, compared to 38 in 2018, while the number of veterans living in uninhabitable conditions totaled 13 both this year and last.
The coalition runs a parallel study over the course of a week, which studies homelessness rates among the state’s unaccompanied youth population. While the data indicates an increase, Carl Asikainen, a community impact coordinator who led the data collection, said the finding can, in part, be attributed to improved outreach methods which span libraries, college campuses, and community centers.
According to 2019 Youth Outreach and Count results, 337 unaccompanied youth under the age of 24 were experiencing homelessness, and 674 were counted as “unstably housed.”
On one of the coldest nights of the year, 305 families with more than 580 children were experiencing homelessness, despite an 18 percent decrease from last year, according to Cho.
Yet, as evidenced by the data, single adults represent more than two-thirds of Connecticut’s homeless population.
“This includes 456 individuals who are unsheltered and who spend their nights outside, on the streets, in tents, under bridges, in their cars, and in other places where no person should have to sleep. The data is clear: we can’t ignore this population any longer,” Cho said in a statement.
Over the next 12 months the coalition will roll out a more targeted campaign to better address homelessness among this population, with efforts ranging from “building a coordinated homeless outreach system; partnering with other sectors such as health care and criminal justice to better identify, prevent, and solve their homelessness; and increasing access to affordable housing.”
Homelessness is often a symptom of family, medical, or social issues. Respondents in this year’s count cited domestic violence, mental illness or addiction — 23 percent of the 2000 adults in transitional housing or shelters reported they became homeless escaping domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Eighteen percent of that same population reported severe mental illness and eight percent reported severe substance abuse.
“The report released today shows that the State of Connecticut continues to be a national leader in ending homelessness,” said Governor Ned Lamont. “But we have more work to do and I will not quit until we can make sure that every person and family has a safe and stable home in our great state.”
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