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What We Know About Homelessness

Homelessness in Connecticut

Over 4,000 people were homeless in Connecticut on a single night in January of 2013, according to a Point-in-Time survey conducted by the CT Coalition to End Homelessness. Moreover, in 2012, more than 14,000 people—including 2,500 children—entered homelessness throughout the course of the year.

Most people who are homeless do not live on the streets. Many individuals, especially homeless families, are hidden from our view; they live doubled up in apartments or in emergency shelters or transitional housing.

For the majority of those who experience homelessness, it is a once-in-a-lifetime event. For these households, homelessness is often brought on by a sudden loss of income or other destabilizing event in their lives. 

The chronically homeless make up about one-third of the homeless population.  They 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.

A smaller percentage of the homeless population is episodically homeless, experiencing repeated episodes of homelessness. While they do not live in the emergency system (as does the chronically homeless population), episodically homeless individuals and families frequently use emergency shelters and services for short periods of time, and face higher risk for becoming chronically homeless unless otherwise prevented.

The Causes of Homelessness

Some people experience homelessness because:

  • High housing costs consume too much of their individual or family income.
  • They have a low income or they are unemployed, work at a low-wage job, or are underemployed.  
  • They or someone in their family suffer from chronic mental illness or substance abuse or have a physical disability or chronic illness such as HIV/AIDS. These individuals and families often experience long-term, chronic homelessness and are best served by supportive housing.
  • An unexpected event triggers a downward spiral – the loss of a job, injury or illness, the loss of a spouse. For someone with very low income, even a car breakdown or an unexpected medical bill can lead to the loss of a job and put a person at risk of homelessness.
  • They have other risk factors like domestic violence and abuse, divorce or family instability, lack of education and illiteracy. 

By increasing the supply of affordable and supportive housing, we can end homelessness.  Learn more about What We're Doing to end homelessness and What You Can Do.

Populations At Risk

Studies on the nation’s homeless population show that certain groups are over-represented. Many of these individuals experience long-term homelessness because they have multiple chronic conditions.

Often, those who re-enter society from government institutions or systems are at risk of homelessness. This includes ex-offenders re-entering society from prison, who may find it difficult to attain work because of their criminal records.  Another group at increased risk of homelessness are the many individuals released in the later part of the twentieth century from state psychiatric hospitals during the deinstitutionalization process.

Another group that is highly vulnerable and at risk of homelessness are the young adults "aging out" of foster care and the child welfare system. Without family or friends to provide support and financial help, they often face considerable challenges and have difficulty finding stable housing and employment.

Veterans are also more likely to experience homelessness compared to the overall population. Over 1,000 veteran households experienced homelessness over the course of 2012. 

In general, those with substance abuse issues or mental illness are overrepresented in the long-term homeless population. Individuals with physical and other chronic illness, including AIDS/HIV, are also at risk of homelessness. For those who cannot work and rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as their sole income, the cost of renting a single bedroom apartment in Connecticut is often higher than their income.