Prevention is the key to fighting homelessness in Connecticut

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We all know one person or another who is living paycheck to paycheck and literally a step from being forced onto the street. This happened to a woman I know and her 10-year-old daughter a few weeks ago. In my effort to assist her, I was shocked to learn how few resources are available to keep people in their homes when faced with difficult times.

The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness recently shared the heartbreaking news that as of February 2015, more than 4,000 people in Connecticut were homeless – more than 200 of whom were veterans, and about 3,000 under the age of 25. This is only a 9 percent decrease in homelessness from last year, and a 10 percent decrease since 2007 – a whopping eight years ago.

Homelessness affects the lives of men, women and children of all ages and ethnicities, particularly those who suffer from a terminal or mental illness, substance abuse or domestic violence. However, there are many more people who become homeless because they made just enough money to keep them from qualifying for help. One financial crisis snowballed into an overflow of financial problems for them, and as a result cost them a roof over their head.

While I applaud the governor’s last homeless initiative, it took on the homelessness problem in the traditional way — bringing homeless people off the street. It looks great on paper, but most of those “statistics” will be back out on the street in no time at all. It merely put a Band-Aid on the hopelessness of those already without a home. This is not a solution.

The solution is to make sure that no resident of Connecticut ever has to face a night of fear, uncertainty, or neglect; to eliminate the possibility of falling into homelessness in the first place. No one with a roof over their head should be told that there is no help for them until they are in a homeless shelter.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Connecticut has the 25th largest homeless population in its emergency and transitional shelters than any other state in the country. We currently do not have sufficient temporary and transitional homes, shelters or services available to meet the high demands and needs of our communities.

We must increase the availability of affordable housing and reassure those in need that help is attainable, and that they must seek it. Countless homeless youth and adults continue to turn away help because they feel they have surpassed it.

This session I plan to fight for legislation that will make housing, education and healthcare more affordable to residents across Connecticut. I hope to see business-friendly bills that will create employment opportunities and provide new services to those in need.

With increased support, we can achieve our goal of ending all chronic homelessness by 2016. As one of only four states participating in the national Zero: 2016 initiative, we are thus far keeping up with our periodic milestones of ending this adversity as we approach 2016. But with the continued help of The Connection, the Connecticut Department of Social Services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and United Way 211, we could make the end of homelessness a reality.

Please take advantage of these resources and join me in supporting our communities. Visit www.unitedwayalice.org to learn more.

State Rep. Dan Carter represents the General Assembly’s 2nd District which includes Bethel, Danbury, Newtown and Redding.

 

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