Frontline Housing Services Call for Adequate State Funding
Monday, March 29, 2021
HARTFORD, Conn. -- In the General Assembly, the Appropriations Committee has been getting an earful about the need for more funding for affordable housing and fighting homelessness.
The pandemic is just one factor in Connecticut's affordable-housing crisis.
Public testimony on Senate Bill 340, which aims to ensure adequate funding for housing services, pointed to the lack of a living wage and Connecticut's high cost of living.
There has also been less money from the state and charitable groups.
Mike Van Vlaenderen, chief operating officer for Reliance Health, Inc., said nonprofits want to be able to cover their staff members' cost-of-living increases, but their budgets are too low.
"And the challenge is, even though we haven't been given adequate funding, we keep doing it," Van Vlaenderen explained. "That's sort of the struggle we always have: If we're going to keep doing it, why would anybody give us more?"
The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness said it's working to provide content for the General Assembly as it crafts the bill for funding housing needs.
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition said about two-thirds of the lowest-income rental households in Connecticut spend at least 30% of their income on rent.
Van Vlaenderen added the services provided to people who are homeless include more than finding living space. He argued it takes a holistic approach to get their needs met, and that can't happen without staff.
"It's not just finding somebody on the streets, putting them in an apartment and wishing them luck," Van Vlaenderen asserted. "It's, 'What really are their needs, what are their goals, what strengths can we build off of?' so that they can get back on their feet and get to the next phase of their lives, and not just be off the streets and call it a day."
Groups like the Alliance Voice of Community Nonprofits are also asking the state to invest about $461 million they say have been lost by nonprofit services in Connecticut since the 2007 recession.
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