WATERBURY - When volunteers went out on a chilly night in January to count Connecticut's homeless, they found more than 2,800 single adults and 430 families with nearly 800 children in shelters, temporary housing or on the streets.
Organizers of the first statewide "point-in-time" count of homeless people say the report they issued Wednesday shows that more housing options, including affordable units with support services, are needed.
Hundreds of volunteers fanned out to 12 cities and towns and other areas on Jan. 30 during the tally, which was organized by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and the Partnership for Strong Communities' "Reaching Home Campaign."
Kate Kelly, manager of the Reaching Home Campaign, said the count was only a snapshot of the problem. She noted that an estimate in 2001 based on U.S. census and local data showed that 33,000 people go homeless in Connecticut each year.
"This baseline measurement tool will give us something to compare next year's numbers to," Kelly said, "but the problem is significantly larger than the numbers in the measurement tool. It's not the whole picture."
The new count pointed to some trends, Kelly said. For example, an estimated 961 of the people counted were chronically homeless and disabled, and 40 percent of the people counted were in Hartford and New Haven. About one-quarter of the homeless people counted were in suburban and rural areas.
In shelters and transitional housing, volunteers counted 2,138 single adults, 392 families with 728 children and 36 unaccompanied youths.
Another 707 single adults, 38 families with 69 children and 15 unaccompanied youths were found living on the streets, in parks, cars, transportation terminals or other locations not intended for human habitation.
Kelly said Connecticut currently has 3,000 units of permanent, affordable and independent rental housing with support services, that have been created or are in development. The Reaching Home Campaign's goal is 10,000 units of supportive housing.
Carol Walter, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, said one of the most striking findings of the new count was that more than 700 single adults, 38 families with 69 children and 15 unaccompanied youth had no shelter on a cold night.
"More than 800 of our fellow citizens were not in shelter, which means they slept outside," she said. "It was 22 degrees."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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