Homelessness among families with young kids in Connecticut is rising. Experts point to a lack of affordable housing, as well as rising rent costs, as some of the reasons why.
WSHU’s Ebong Udoma spoke with CT Mirror’s Ginny Monk to discuss her article, “Family homelessness in Connecticut is increasing. Here’s one family’s story,” as part of the collaborative podcast Long Story Short.
You can read her story here.
WSHU: Hello, Ginny, let’s talk about your story, which is focused on Brandé Radford and her children, Wisdom and Knowledge. How did they become homeless?
GM: They became homeless after moving up to Connecticut from Tennessee. They had been living in an apartment, Brandé and Wisdom and Knowledge were living there with Brandé’s oldest daughter, who’s 20 years old and struggling with an opioid addiction. Her daughter started exhibiting some troubling behaviors. And the landlord said, you know, she needs to be out of the apartment. I don’t want this happening. And Brandé was worried that she would overdose on the streets and sort of just tried to keep the family in the apartment. But they wound up with an eviction notice on June 1.
WSHU: They ended up living in the car.
GM: They did. They initially were sort of bouncing around from triage beds at homeless shelters, in the car, a couple of nights sleeping on a family member’s couch really just wherever they could find shelter.
WSHU: You say here that we have a system in place in Connecticut to deal with this. But the response system to this type of situation is strained. Could you tell us a little bit about what the system is and why we’re having such a problem now?
GM: Sure. So Connecticut sort of stands out with its homelessness response system, in that we have what’s called a coordinated system of entry, meaning that the shelters are fairly communicative with one another in trying to end homelessness, get families in shelter. And in Rapid Rehousing or other housing assistance programs particularly with family homelessness, they sort of got that number, way down. Families were rarely homeless in Connecticut. And when they were, the system was able to get them into a shelter.
WSHU: That was pre-pandemic.
GM: Pre-pandemic. And we’ve seen a shift, since the pandemic, more families needing help, and they’re staying in shelters longer. There’s a number of reasons for that. But it all sort of stems from this lack of affordable housing that the state of Connecticut has. The goal is to have people stay in shelters 30 days or less before they move to an apartment. For families, they’re staying closer to 158 days in the shelter. And that means that those beds are taken up for longer, and it’s harder to cycle families through the system.
WSHU: Now what normally happens here is a family would get a voucher from the Connecticut Department of Housing, and that voucher would then be used to get an apartment. Is the problem the availability of apartments or the lack of vouchers?
GM: So I’d say most homeless service providers would say it lies in the lack of available apartments, they are saying that they’re seeing instances in which families will receive a voucher, but they’re not able to find an apartment to use it at.
WSHU: Is the legislature doing anything about this?
GM: Lawmakers recently have started drawing more attention to the issue of homelessness. There was a rather large press conference of some legislative leaders in the housing sphere here in Hartford, they’re indicating that they’re going to work on offering more funding to the homelessness response system in the upcoming session. And this was something that lawmakers considered: service providers were asking for $50 million for the homeless response system for a few different things, supporting the 211 system, and utilizing cold weather funding. And they received $5 million.
WSHU: They asked for $50 million and received $5 million?
WSHU: And we’re going into the winter months now. So how do we deal with that?
GM: Yeah. So, you’re sort of asking a big question that service providers have been calling attention to. And during winter months, they open more shelter beds so that people aren’t left sleeping outside. People can stay warm and safe. And they’re saying, ‘Look, this $5 million is not going to last us through the winter, particularly as we’re seeing more people experiencing homelessness.’ So often they’re left to sort of fundraise in lieu of the state funding that they need.
WSHU: How does that help the Radford family? What’s their situation now?
GM: They’re in a longer term shelter right now waiting on some sort of housing assistance program voucher, like you mentioned, or rapid rehousing. So really, they’re in a waiting period right now. And I think the hope is that a system gets more funding, they’re able to help more families more quickly and people won’t be like the Radford family, going to a triage place or staying outside.
WSHU: But that will not be dealt with until the next legislative session.