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Homelessness in Hartford: A Year-Round Problem

Susan Campbell

July 27, 2010

The focus of a handwritten note dropped off at The Courant was a homeless woman who was "surviving in Hartford in hallways."

Homelessness doesn't get any easier just because it's summer. Cities can open up cooling stations, shelters can relax rules about clients hanging around during the day, but homelessness is never easy. The woman in the hallway is 29, and suffers from cancer. She has oozing sores, and her nose, the note-writer said, is "not intact." She has an active drug addiction. Where should she go? A shelter wouldn't work, her cancer is too advanced.

We can argue blame later. For now, the woman needs help.

Journey Home, a nonprofit that's spearheading the implementation of the capitol region's Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness, recently released their Vulnerability Index report. That study is a standardized assessment of the vulnerability of the homeless based on their unique health issues. Boiled down, activists use a prescribed series of questions to see who's likely to die prematurely on the streets. According to the report, 44 percent of the area's homeless are, like the woman in the hall, medically vulnerable. It also indicated that 45 percent report a history of substance abuse.

Among other suggestions, the report calls for streamlining health care services for the homeless. And here's why that's important:

Last week, a Hartford minister took the hallway woman in, and made an appointment with Community Health Services for the next morning. I emailed health advocates including Kevin Lembo, the state's health care advocate; Jennifer Jaff, of Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness Inc., and Shawn Lang, of CARC, and a friend from way back. They extended good suggestions and offers to help, which I passed on to the note-writer, who also enlisted the help of a doctor who promised an examination.

You might think we'd fashioned something of a safety net for the woman, but no. The homeless woman got angry, and stormed out of the minister's house. She has yet to see a doctor.

If you're in Hartford, and you see a young woman with a nose that's not intact, please tell her the Rev. is waiting for her and wants to help. While we work to streamline health services, and work toward more affordable and supportive housing, maybe we can bring this one woman out of the hallway.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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