When it comes to homelessness, the prevailing image is distinctly urban. Search Google images for “homeless” and you get images of people surrounded by cement, skyscrapers and sidewalks. Because of this, it can be easy to forget that homelessness can affect people anywhere- even in the smaller cities, suburbs, and rural areas that make up much of Connecticut. With the recent announcement of this year’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) awards, which provided $117,636 to programs in New London County that help people with economic emergencies (food, shelter, rent/mortgage and utility assistance), I was interested to learn more about what homelessness looks like in Connecticut. I turned to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) for some facts and statistics. Each year, volunteers across the state spend a night (and in some cases several days) gathering data to get a snapshot of what homelessness looks like in Connecticut, and the results are fascinating and sometimes surprising. Check out some highlights from their most recent report (as of January 23, 2018).
- “LOWEST HOMELESS POPULATION YET: On the night of January 23, 2018, 3,383 people were experiencing homelessness in Connecticut. This represents a 25% decrease from 2007; the first statewide homeless census in Connecticut. Connecticut data on annual numbers of homelessness (all those who experience homelessness across the entire year) also reflects this strong progress: between 2012 and 2017, annual homelessness fell by 34%.
- MOST CHRONICALLY HOMELESS ON THE PATH TO HOUSING: Nearly 75% of those counted as chronically homeless were in the process of securing permanent housing. The number of chronically homeless (those experiencing long-term homelessness and living with severe disabilities) decreased by 69% since 2014, down 15% since 2017. Through a concerted effort started in 2015 to identify and house those experiencing this most severe form of homelessness, Connecticut has housed more than 1,900 of these high-need, long-term homeless individuals. People who are chronically homeless tend to cycle in and out of expensive public services like emergency departments, hospital in-patient care, and jails, racking up high costs while their homelessness persists. Studies across the nation show that communities can decrease costs by up to 70 percent when they house this population with appropriate supports.
- NUMBER OF HOMELESS FAMILIES FALLING: 370 families were experiencing homelessness; a decrease of 6% from last year.
- NO UNSHELTERED FAMILIES IDENTIFIED: Census surveyors did not identify a single family with children experiencing homelessness and lacking appropriate emergency shelter.
- FEW VETERANS COUNTED AS HOMELESS: Only 38 Veterans were identified in emergency shelter, and only 13 Veterans were unsheltered. Connecticut’s work has earned national acclaim; the federal government confirmed in 2015 that Connecticut had effectively ended chronic homelessness among veterans. In 2016, Connecticut became one of the first two states to end all veteran homelessness by securing housing in less than 90 days.
- YOUNG PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOUSING INSTABILTY OR HOMELESSNESS: 5,054 youth under the age of 25 were estimated to be homeless or unstably housed, including 254 counted as literally homeless (living in an emergency homeless shelter or place unfit for human habitation).”
While many of these trends are hopeful, there is still work to be done. Programs like EFSP fund agencies that provide lifelines for individuals and families experiencing desperate situations. As the local administrator for EFSP for over 20 years, United Way of Southeastern Connecticut does not make funding decisions, but rather carries out the administration of the program. By working with this program and supporting the work of our various partner agencies year-round, United Way is committed to making sure that everyone in New London County has the support they need to live a stable and healthy life.