Homelessness comes in many different forms. An episode of homelessness, for most, is a once-in-a-lifetime event and can be ended by an increase in income or access to affordable housing. For many households, homelessness is often brought on by a sudden loss of income or other destabilizing event, such as health emergencies, loss of a job, death, and/or separation from a partner.
In Connecticut, we are building a strong homelessness response system in every community that will have the capacity to quickly identify and engage people experiencing homelessness, divert people to housing solutions, provide immediate access to emergency shelter and crisis services, and connect people to housing and assistance services that is tailored to their needs.
Ending homelessness in Connecticut means that every community will have a response system to prevent homelessness whenever possible and to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring.
Connecticut CAN Data
- 75% decrease in chronic homeless population since 2014
- 3,033 homeless in CT – 32% statewide decrease since 2007
- 40% decrease in the number of people utilizing CT shelter systems since 2012
To learn more about how CT is doing in meeting its benchmarks and making progress in ending homelessness, visit CT CAN Data statewide data dashboard at www.ctcandata.org.
Families experience homelessness for a variety of reasons, such as an inability to afford housing, a loss of a job or work hours, conflict with family members they are staying with, an unanticipated bill or violence within the home or other events that causes instability.
These households are usually headed by a single woman with limited education, are typically young, and have young children. Based on CT’s registry of all households experiencing homelessness in our state, as of 11/19/2019, there are 319 families experiencing homelessness in Connecticut.
Homelessness can have a tremendous impact on children – their education, health, sense of safety, and overall development. Children who experience homelessness have higher rates of physical illness, emotional trauma, and learning difficulties than their housed peers- forcing heavy costs on healthcare, schools, and other community services. Fortunately, researchers find that children are also highly resilient and differences between children who have experienced homelessness and low-income children who have not typically diminish in the years following a homeless episode.
Runaway and unaccompanied youth are often hidden. Most are couch surfing or staying with others for short periods of time. The 2019 Youth Outreach and Count estimates a total of 5,455 youth and young adults were experiencing homelessness and unstable housing in Connecticut. The longer youth experience homelessness, the harder and more expensive it is to exit. In addition, those experiencing homelessness are often at risk of sexual abuse, being lured into prostitution, physical abuse, criminal justice involvement, illness and suicide.
Veterans are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness. Like the general homeless population, veterans are at a significantly increased risk of homelessness if they have low socioeconomic status, a mental health disorder, and/or a history of substance abuse. Yet, because of veterans’ military service, this population is at higher risk of experiencing traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both of which have been found to be among the most substantial risk factors for homelessness. Among the recent Iraq and Afghanistan cohort of veterans—who are more frequently female than their older counterparts—an experience of sexual trauma while serving in the military greatly increases the risk of homelessness.
The chronically homeless make up about one-third of the homeless population. The chronically homeless are the most intense users of emergency shelters and services and often have chronic conditions, like mental illness, substance abuse or another chronic illness, or a physical disability, that make it difficult to stay housed or maintain employment.
Additionally, veterans often experience difficulty returning to civilian life, particularly those without strong social support networks, and may not have skills that can be easily transferred to employment outside of the military. Veterans face the same shortage of affordable housing options and living wage jobs as all Americans, and these factors—combined with the increased likelihood that veterans will exhibit symptoms of PTSD, substance abuse, or mental illness—can compound to put veterans at a greater risk of homelessness than the general population.
Studies on the nation’s homeless population show that certain groups are over-represented. Most minority groups in the United State experience homelessness at higher rates than Whites, and make up a disproportionate share of the homeless population. In this country, Black and African Americans make up 13% of the population, however, 40% are homeless. This is indeed alarming as we see the wealth disparity grow in this country that is also affecting more Blacks and Latinx.
Criminal Justice Involvement
Individuals leaving prison are 10 times more likely to be homeless. People who have been to prison just once experience homelessness at a rate nearly 7 times higher than the general public. But people who have been incarcerated more than once have rates 13 times higher than the general public. In other words, people who have been incarcerated multiple times are twice as likely to be homeless as those who are returning from their first prison term.
Over 40% of those leaving prison in the state of Connecticut are leaving at End of Sentence (EOS). This means that the individual has served a full sentence and is leaving prison with little to no supports and services in place. Between August 2017-July 2018, DOC reported that there were 10,985 individuals released from incarceration to the community. 6,318 were released under a DOC discretionary release mechanism (community supervision) and 4,677 were released at the end of sentence (EOS). Some of these individuals were transported by the DOC to shelters and city centers, while others were discharged directly from the court system.
The reentry population in Connecticut face multiple barriers to housing and other support services. Many find difficulty returning to spouses and/or family if they are in public housing because of a criminal record. The reentry population is turned away from public housing and housing vouchers. Many landlords are reluctant to rent because of a criminal record; however, federal law prohibits only two types of former offenders from living in public housing.
Connecticut has worked diligently in exiting many from its prisons. At the same time, we know that having safe and stable housing is critical to the success of those reentering our communities. Housing is critical to employment, recovery, health and social reintegration back into society.
The 2019 count surveyed 2860 minors, of which 34 were homeless and 236 were unstably housed. The report shows that of youth surveyed with a history of criminal justice, 56.7% were experiencing housing instability or homeless.
Health and Housing
Health and housing are inextricably linked. Homeless individuals have been known to accrue healthcare expenditures nearly four times greater than the average Medicaid recipient. Evidence shows us that following a “housing first” model works and that having a roof over one’s head and a safe place to live will result in better health outcomes.
The costly episodes, which often result from the use of acute services, can also be associated with worse health and quality of life outcomes and increases in health disparities. Individuals who enter chronic homelessness oftentimes have significant health and social challenges that involve multiple systems and require collaboration at every level. Much of what happens in terms of one’s health happens upstream. Where you live matters. Hence, if someone lives in an unsafe neighborhood or lives in housing that has mold or lead it can lead to negative health outcomes.
A small number of individuals consume a greater percentage of the healthcare dollar in this country, many coming in and out of homelessness. Those individuals often cycle in and out of Emergency Departments and the care they receive is fragmented. Services are often funded through a siloed approach leaving little effort for cross-system collaboration.
CT has made great strides in reducing homelessness for the chronic population. We know that many who are chronically homeless also have medical/behavioral/social issues that require multi-system interventions. CT is looking at multi-systemic, community-based solutions. The goal is to end and prevent chronic homelessness going forward with a focus on finding innovative solutions to health and housing issues.