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Connecticut's pilot housing program for families with young children is expanding

At a press conference today, Gov. Ned Lamont announced the expansion of Connecticut’s first-in-the-nation Head Start on Housing pilot program. The first-in-the-nation program connects families with young children to affordable housing.
Camila Vallejo
/
Connecticut Public
At a news conference Monday, Gov. Ned Lamont announced the expansion of Connecticut’s Head Start on Housing pilot program, which connects families with young children to affordable housing.

A first-in-the-nation program that connects families with young children to affordable housing in Connecticut is growing.

The Head Start on Housing program is administering an additional 35 state-funded housing vouchers for low-income families enrolled in Head Start, a federally funded preschool program that promotes school readiness for children up to age 5.

“This program has been a miracle,” said Meaghan Gonzalez, whose family was one of 20 in the state that was able to find housing thanks to the pilot program. “It’s been a roller-coaster ride, and I’m glad it’s finally over. I’m glad we’re finally off.”

Gonzalez, a mother of three children under 5, said her family was in and out of hotel rooms over the last five years until LULAC Head Start in New Haven stepped in.

Two of her children are enrolled in Head Start, and she said the program has been pivotal in helping her family find stability in and out of the classroom. The state added the housing component to the program when it saw an increasing number of families with young children at risk of homelessness.

“Stable housing is among the most important components of a child’s development and well-being, and by expanding this pilot program using federal housing vouchers we will be able to connect more young families to a place they can call home,” said Gov. Ned Lamont, speaking Monday morning at LULAC Head Start along with several other Connecticut officials.

The program helps families with an average of $12,000 a year for housing. It’s made possible thanks to cross-agency collaboration between the state Department of Housing and Office of Early Childhood.

“We have kids in a safe place so that they can go to school, so that they can perform, so that they don’t get behind,” said Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno.

She said the program has a special place in her heart. She too once had to wait months on a waiting list to find subsidized housing while she worked two jobs and had a daughter to raise.

“I got a call, which I say is a miracle, I qualified for one of the apartments that was subsidized that I could afford,” Mosquera-Bruno said.

Gonzalez now knows what it’s like to get that call. A manager at the LULAC Head Start program was on the other end to let her know she was approved.

“I dropped to the floor and just started crying. I never thought that it would ever happen,” Gonzalez said.

After several years of instability, she said she can now wake up in her home every morning, cook for her kids and just enjoy her family’s company without worry. It’ll take some time for her kids to adjust, she said, but it’s everything she hoped for.

“They still ask me here and there, ‘Mommy, are we going back to the hotel?’ and I gotta let them know, ‘No honey, this is our home. Look, this is our keys to our place, this is your room, this is your bed,” Gonzalez said. “Nothing like that is ever going to happen again, thanks to the whole housing program.”

Camila Vallejo is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. She is a bilingual reporter based out of Fairfield County and welcomes all story ideas at cvallejo@ctpublic.org.

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