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Facing More Need Among Homeless With Less Funding

November 25, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. - As families gather for the Thanksgiving weekend, there's some bad news for those who don't have homes in which to celebrate the holiday. The 2012 federal budget that funds housing programs has just been finalized, and advocates in Connecticut predict they'll have to provide more services with the same amount of money as this year, because homelessness is spreading.

Carol Walter, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, says Congress funded the McKinney-Vento homeless assistance grants at $1.9 billion, which is 80 percent of what President Obama had requested.

"Many people might think that's a good thing in this economic climate, but with the pretty precipitous increase in homelessness nationally and here in Connecticut, level funding in homeless assistance grants is the same thing as a cut."

She says Connecticut has seen an increase in demand for shelter, both from families and those who are long-term homeless. Combined with other cuts in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget, Walters believes the results will increase homelessness – and she calls cuts to specific programs "potentially catastrophic."

"Those cuts will likely drive more people into homelessness as things like housing subsidies, public housing authorities, and some of the funds jurisdictions use to prevent homelessness and create housing are reduced drastically."

Funds to build more supportive housing to get people out of homeless shelters will likely not be available, says Walters, adding that the existing stock of public housing in Connecticut is in serious disrepair.

"That's housing owned by public housing authorities that were built many, many years ago – and without funding to maintain those, they eventually become uninhabitable."

She notes that Gov. Dannel Malloy has invested new dollars to create more affordable housing, but says it doesn't replace what's already been lost.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT