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CT Lawmakers Consider Bill to End Homelessness

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The most recent count of Connecticut's homeless population saw a 4% decrease between January 2019 and January 2020, but that was before the pandemic, and numbers have likely jumped since then. (Adobe Stock)
The most recent count of Connecticut's homeless population saw a 4% decrease between January 2019 and January 2020, but that was before the pandemic, and numbers have likely jumped since then. (Adobe Stock)
 By Michayla Savitt - Producer, Contact
March 8, 2021

HARTFORD, Conn. -- A landmark bill that would make housing a human right for all Connecticut residents is making its way through the General Assembly.

Known as the "Act Establishing a Right to Housing," Senate Bill 194 would reduce the impact of criminal and eviction history on housing access, increase access to legal counsel for evictions and foreclosures, and more.

Sarah Fox, policy director for the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, said while the bill is aspirational, the hope is to set a precedent for a long-term solution.

"It's about providing more than charitable giving," Fox explained. "And actually building better systems and recognizing that the homelessness response system is every bit of the fabric of our state's emergency response system."

The bill has no official fiscal note yet, but according to Fox, concerns have been raised about funding, since the proposal includes federal COVID-19 relief dollars to rent hotel rooms, provide safe, legal parking lots for RV dwellers and camping areas with sanitation facilities.

Matthew Morgan, executive director for Journey Home Connecticut, said the measure aims to not only face issues exacerbated by COVID-19, but also the ties between homelessness, mental-health challenges and substance abuse.

"Even doctors can't necessarily sort out all the time which is the cause of which, if it's the homelessness that's causing the substance abuse, or the mental illness that's causing the homelessness," Morgan observed.

In last year's annual count, the homeless population topped more than 2,900 in Connecticut. This year's numbers have yet to be released, but are likely to be higher with widespread financial hardship due to the pandemic.

Morgan and Fox both have firsthand experience with homelessness.

Fox said her own struggle to get housing, then seeing her mother experience homelessness and later be placed in permanent supportive housing, are examples of what the bill aims to achieve.

"Having her housed and having her healthy, it changed everything for me and my family," Fox recounted. "When you're terrified about having someone in your family be homeless, or when you're homeless, you're living in a constant state of panic. You really can't meet your basic needs and you can't think about the future."

Senate Bill 194 is in the General Assembly's Joint Housing Committee. Public comment is open until March 19.

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