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Legislators Pledge Support for the Fight Against Homelessness

Legislators Pledge Support for the Fight Against Homelessness

Contact your legislators: that was the bottom-line message from lawmakers at the March 31, 2017 legislative breakfast hosted by the Middlesex County Coalition on Housing and Homelessness. With both federal and state funding to address homelessness and affordable housing on the line, Coalition members invited state legislators to hear about local progress in the fight to end homelessness, and to ask them to preserve funding for it in the state budget.

Panel members, including Representative Hilda Santiago, Senator Paul Doyle, Representative Matt Lesser, and Representative Bob Siegrist,  all voiced their support for maintaining funding for housing issues, but cautioned that some tough choices will have to be made to finalize the 2017 budget.  “There simply isn’t enough money for everything,” said Senator Doyle.  “We have to prioritize.  That’s why it’s important for us to hear from groups like this one.”

In opening the meeting, Liberty Bank Foundation Executive Director Sue Murphy lauded Connecticut as a nationwide leader in finding efficient, cost-effective and humane solutions to ending homelessness. “We actually have housed the last chronically homeless person in our region,” she said.  “When we started this ten years ago, would any of us have believed we could make that happen?  Yet, here we are.”

Murphy stressed the role of federal and state funding in enabling the Coalition’s successes, praising the state Department of Housing in particular for its ongoing advocacy and financial investment. She noted, however, that maintaining government funding was vital in order for progress to continue. “To those who suggest that private philanthropic support could fill the void if government pulls back funding for homelessness, my message is:  it simply isn’t possible.  We have a new goal of housing homeless youth and families by 2020. The only way we can achieve that and continue to lead the nation is with continued governmental support,” she said.

Legislators expressed their backing for three key issues on the housing front: protecting the new Coordinated Access Network (CAN) infrastructure that connects people who are homeless with housing and support services; maintaining state statute 830-G, which sets a goal for towns to ensure that at least 10 percent of their housing stock is affordable for moderate-income households; and retaining funding levels for services for people in supportive housing.

Significant insights offered by the panel were:

  • Statewide CANs have produced tremendous results in getting people housed, stabilizing lives, and addressing other issues associated with homelessness, such as substance abuse or lack of job training.
  • In the greater scheme of things, funding for the CANs is a small part of the budget. Through the CAN system and local Community Care Teams, significant tax dollars have already been saved through the reduction, for example, in emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
  • Statute 830-G does not cost the state anything, but provides an effective mechanism to enable average workers (like hairdressers, teachers, and landscapers) to live in the communities where they work.
  • Services provided to people in supportive housing are essential to stabilize their lives, allowing them to begin solving other problems, like finding employment and maintaining wellness, and may ultimately permit them to advance to self-sufficiency.
  • If funding is cut to the CANs and attached services, this will simply lead to more homelessness, more spending on shelters, emergency room visits, and incarceration, and more serious, intractable social problems.

Representative Santiago urged the audience to communicate with legislators about their priority issues.  “When there’s a bill or funding that you are advocating for, we need to hear from you.”  Representative Lesser agreed, noting, “When we get three emails on a bill from different people, that gets our attention.  We rely on you to let us know when you need us to take action.”

Are you interested in fighting homelessness, making more affordable housing available, or advocating for other issues in our state?  You can click here to find the names of your local legislators. A phone call, email, letter or in-person visit is all it takes to make your voice heard.