Progress: Unofficial count shows fewer homeless in New Britain than last year
By Lisa Backus/New Britain Herald
February 2, 2016
The annual PIT count documents the number of people staying in shelters and, during certain years, the number living on the streets one night during the winter.
This year’s count, which occurred on Jan. 26, revealed a total of 155 homeless individuals — 17 less than last year.
“This decrease in the number of homeless people in our city is validation that the work we have been doing to connect individuals to the critical housing and services they need is making an impact and improving lives,” Mayor Erin Stewart said. “Ending homelessness is a complex and difficult undertaking, and our work will not stop. The Building Hope Together task force will continue to meet regularly and improve our strategies to help those who are in need.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the PIT count to be done annually in the winter to help determine funding and resources. Every other year local agencies are required to not only count the number of people staying in shelters and transitional housing, but also those living on the streets.
Volunteers in New Britain found 10 people living on the streets in February 2015 and seven people last week. The department asked agencies to do the unsheltered homeless count again this year.
In 2014, volunteers counted 148 homeless individuals in shelters and transitional housing. A count of the number of people on the streets was not wrequired to be done in 2014. In 2013, volunteers counted 173 homeless individuals including 10 people considered to be living on the streets.
The figures for the number of people counted on the streets can change based on a formula, which takes into consideration population density in the areas where the homeless individuals were found.
State officials were cautiously optimistic about the New Britain numbers, but said they would have to wait until the final tally was provided in a statewide report, which will be issued by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness in a few months.
The state Department of Housing allocated 30 vouchers for New Britain through a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grant. Ten more housing vouchers were provided by the state.
The people who were housed with the vouchers were considered chronically homeless and the most vulnerable. Several people were housed with the vouchers since the 2015 count was done.
“I would think that it would be making an impact,” said Daniel Arsenault, Legislative Program Manager and spokesman for the state Department of Housing. “There were 40 vouchers and they all were for the chronically homeless so at least the chronically homeless numbers should be decreasing.”
Arsenault said the DOH made a “concerted” effort to work with city officials to provide help after hearing reports that a portion of the city’s homeless population was living on the streets and drinking downtown in public to the point where they had to be continually transported to the hospital for their own safety.
The DOH also provided $50,000 in funding to help the city open an emergency winter shelter that is operational from late December to late March. Volunteers counted 42 people at the emergency shelter Jan. 26.
“The overflow (emergency shelter) signifies our street number,” said Donna Bergin, program director for the Friendship Service Center, which organized the count. “But they are considered sheltered for the count.”
The city along with Bristol, Plainville, Southington and Berlin, also now participate in a Coordinated Access Network, which funnels potential clients through the system by first having them call 211 to get immediately assessed for housing needs and set up for an appointment to get into a shelter.
The CAN and the mayor’s Building Hope Together work plans to end homelessness were instrumental in getting people housed, said Mary Floyd, the work plan coordinator and the chair of the CAN. “The reduction is due to the hard work with the mayor’s office with the executive committee of New Britain’s work plan and the CAN, Floyd said.
State officials including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy have been working to end chronic homelessness for veterans and others by issuing housing vouchers, which were distributed throughout the state.
The DOH believes the state ended chronic veteran homelessness in 2015 and officials are now working on ending chronic homelessness for others within the year.
Stewart was one of dozens of mayors who agreed to partner with the state to end chronic homelessness in 2016, said Steve DiLella, DOH’s Director of Individual and Family Support Programs. The mayors will participate in activities designed to heighten awareness of the problem of housing and homelessness and other measures as the year continues, he said. “With the CANs we are making real progress,” DiLella said.
This article originally appeared in the New Britain Herald here.