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Housing Connecticut’s Most Vulnerable Residents During The Coldest of Winters

11 February 2014

Richard Porth, president and CEO of United Way Connecticut.

It’s been a tough winter so far, especially with the extended periods of extreme cold.  This is the time of year when gaps and strains in our housing and shelter supply become more apparent.  The stakes are always high when people slip through the cracks, but never more so than when people are without shelter in weather so cold that it is life-threatening.

United Way of Connecticut’s 2-1-1 contact center gets calls every day of the year from people looking for help connecting to every kind of health and human service from A to Z.  For the last few years, the top request for help from 2-1-1 has been housing and shelter.  We hear directly from thousands of people struggling to pay their rent or keep up with mortgage or are in imminent danger of becoming homeless.

When there are extreme cold weather events, state leadership in the Governor’s Office and in the Departments of Emergency Management, Social Services, Housing, and Mental Health and Addiction Services work together with 2-1-1, the Coalition to End Homelessness, and our state’s shelter providers to make sure that no one falls through the cracks. 

We spent much of January in an emergency activation of the state’s cold weather protocol.  What we observed in 2-1-1, as we helped to place people in shelter during this time, was the real courage of people facing homelessness and the tremendous generosity and flexibility of dozens of shelter providers across the state.  The longer the cold spells last, the tougher it is on our shelters and their staffs as they open their doors for people in need, time after time, even when they already have all they can handle.

We all need to acknowledge the heroic work of these shelter providers and honor their work by re-doubling our efforts to address the root causes of homelessness and increase the supply of affordable housing.

Richard Porth, president and CEO of United Way Connecticut.

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