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Tally of Homeless Underway in Connecticut

January 27, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn. - Nutmeggers who called a shelter "home" on Tuesday night were part of the annual "point-in-time" census of homeless people and families in shelters. Similar counts are being conducted nationwide this week.

Connecticut's tally will provide the state with a snapshot of the issue, although Carol Walter, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, says even before the final numbers are in, they know the problem is growing, especially outside urban areas. United Way hotline calls for housing assistance are up 72 percent since last year.

"There's a real increase in suburban homelessness; a real increase in demand from people who live in Connecticut's smaller towns and more rural communities."

Walter says state funding to help prevent homelessness has been on the decline. She calls the trend "unfortunate," because she says prevention is cheaper than running shelters - and she is convinced that prevention works. Rental help, foreclosure assistance and security deposit guarantees are examples of ways to prevent homelessness.

"The idea is to intervene before people do become homeless, so that they could stay home and not have the disrupting effect of losing their home and taking their kids out of school."

She points out that the one-night count only includes people in shelters, not those who are staying with family members or friends, so the numbers will represent only a fraction of the total homeless population.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - CT