For some, the coming of winter brings fantasies of pumpkin spice drinks, warm fireplaces, and bountiful holiday meals. However, For the 2,930 people experiencing homelessness in Connecticut this winter these cheerful visions could not be farther from reality. Serving to exacerbate the ever growing issue of homelessness are recent cuts in 211 emergency housing hotline funding, and decreasing space in Connecticut shelters.
Connecticut’s housing crisis is nothing new. The state’s history is stained with discriminatory redlining practices, neglect of public housing units, and unequal mortgage opportunities. Building permits in Connecticut continue to decrease. In 2020 only 5,471 permits were filed in comparison to the 27,730 permits filed in 1986. As housing options decrease, those selling and renting homes have greater opportunity to charge high prices. Searching for maximum profit per unit, landlords push out current tenants for those willing to pay more. COVID-19 eviction moratoriums are a thing of the past, and landlords are free to search for the highest bidder at the expense of those now without a place to stay.
Connecticut has aimed at solving this problem by requiring every municipality in the state to provide housing for low to moderate income families. However, the creation of more affordable housing units continues to be an exception rather than an expectation. According to the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Connecticut was on pace to have nearly 30,000 eviction filings in 2022. Their interactive map outlining Connecticut evictions show that between January 1 2022 and November 20th, 2022 there have been 20,582 eviction filings in Connecticut with 46,954 renters facing eviction. Eviction places residents at high risk for homelessness, and results in poorer health, and educational outcomes for our state’s youth.
Solving the issue of housing may appear insurmountable. However, preserving funding for the 211 emergency housing hotline service and local shelters through the winter months is a great place to start. Cuts in the 211 housing hotline service have meant that 24/7 service has been replaced by hours from 8am-4pm each day. For single mothers, the chronically ill, the elderly, and others at risk of homelessness, fewer hours of hotline staffing may mean a car or park bench being called home on a cold winter night. At its peak, 211 can get nearly 50 crisis calls each hour. However with fewer operators because of cuts in funding, the call capacities sit around only 8 per hour.
Shelters are also a vital resource for those at risk for literal homelessness. One example is the city of Danbury. With few warming stations available in the winter months, shelters are in higher demand. The only shelter in Danbury, which is run by the nonprofit Pacific House Inc, has stopped taking in clients. With a capped residency of 40 filled rooms, the shelter is unable to take in more people in crisis, and no other shelters are available. In search of a place to stay, those without housing disperse to other local municipalities like Bridgeport that are also reaching catastrophic levels of shelter enrollment.
If you lost your job tomorrow, would you be able to make it through? For 59% of Americans living just a paycheck away from homelessness, the answer is no. Housing insecurity is real for thousands of families throughout Connecticut. Whether it be decreased funding for the 211 emergency housing hotline, decreasing accessibility to shelters, or Connecticut’s failure to institute a right to shelter policy, Connecticut’s housing problems need to be addressed. Let’s hope this change comes sooner rather than later.
Iseabailla Hewitt is a junior at Sacred Heart University, majoring in nursing with a minor in global health.