Annual count shows slight decline in Connecticut homelessness
STAMFORD — When volunteers walked city streets and visited shelters on an unseasonably warm winter night early this year, they found two more homeless people than last year, bucking a downward trend statewide.
On that night, volunteers for the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, traversed cities across the state, finding nearly 3,400 homeless people, the lowest number ever recorded, according to data released Thursday. It was a 25 percent decrease from the group’s first Connecticut homeless count in 2007, although the 2018 numbers were similar to last year.
Chronic homelessness — people without long-term housing — is down 15 percent from last year, and nearly 70 percent since 2014, the coalition found. Nearly three quarters of those people are in the process of finding permanent housing.
Alison Cunningham, the CEO of Columbus House, a homelessness solutions nonprofit in New Haven that also has a shelter in Middletown, said the numbers reflect targeted interventions.
“Homelessness is an issue across the country and it’s certain an issue across Connecticut, but there are pieces of good news in this,” she said.
That good news concerns the very low number of veterans experiencing homelessness, an area of focus for nonprofits such as Columbus House in the past. Targeted interventions also help in “digging into the issues of a particular population,” she said.
Recently, housing advocates have turned their attention toward eradicating chronic homelessness, people who experience homelessness for long periods of time or multiple bouts of homelessness in a short period of time while living with a disability.
“When we look at the big picture, we see some improvement,” Cunningham said. “Homelessness is not going away, but the good news is we’ve been able to target these specific populations from going up and going off the charts again.”
The 370 homeless families found statewide also represented a decline. There were also only 38 veterans identified in emergency shelter and 13 without shelter.
“Along with Gov. (Dannel) Malloy, our communities have embraced the goal of ending homelessness — an effort that saves lives, and saves our communities’ resources wasted when homelessness persists on our streets and in our shelter,” Coalition CEO Lisa Tepper Bates said in a news release.
However, the coalition remains concerned by the number of young people encountering unreliable housing or homelessness.
The group’s second statewide count of those 25 or younger found 5,054 facing housing instability; 254 of those counted were homeless — living in an emergency shelter or somewhere unfit to live.
“We have made great progress ending the homelessness of key populations,” Bates said. “We need to carry forward that innovation to end the homelessness of vulnerable youth in our state.”
On Jan. 23, volunteers found 255 homeless people in Stamford, 30 of them without shelter. Of those under a roof, 154 were in an emergency shelter, while 71 were in a form of temporary housing while they sought a place to live.
Stamford’s figures include those counted in Greenwich by volunteers working the coalition’s Point-in-Time Count.
Jason Shaplen, CEO of Stamford nonprofit Inspirica, which provides shelter for 65 percent of the city’s homeless population, said the data shows there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
Even though Stamford homelessness declined to 253 in 2017 from 287 the previous year, Shaplen said those figures are similar to the count in 2010 when the unemployment rate was up around 10 percent.
“Given that drop, we’re really glad not to have given any of that back,” Shaplen said. “We continue to make progress, but the war on ending homelessness has hardly been won.”