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State leaders and housing advocates address homelessness in Fairfield County

State Representative Marcus Brown listens during a legislative roundtable discussion on what can be down to get more funding for homelessness services.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
State Representative Marcus Brown listens during a legislative roundtable discussion on what can be down to get more funding for homelessness services.

For more than an hour housing advocates gathered with state lawmakers in the hall of Christ and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Westport to discuss efforts to address homelessness in southern Connecticut.

In Fairfield County, about 834 people are homeless, according to housing advocates.

The county needs an additional 25,000 affordable apartments, condos or homes in order to meet the state-mandated minimum of 10% housing inventory designated affordable.

“We have way too many people that are not HUDs (Department of Housing and Urban Development) definition of homeless but very much housing unstable,” Jessica Kubicki, Chief Initiative Officer with Opening Doors said.

Opening Doorsis a partnership of several housing advocacy groups in the state, and is a part of the nonprofit The Housing Collective.

One of the simplest ways to address the state’s housing crisis is to promote existing programs, Kubicki said.

“There is funding for landlords that own units that are blight, or unoccupied or condemned, anything of that nature,” Kubicki said. “I think for us as providers, and I think for you all sitting here, it would be amazing to continue to share that information.”

David Rich, CEO of The Housing Collective, said the state’s top leaders, including Gov. Ned Lamont and Department of Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno, aren’t prioritizing homeless programming.

David Rich, CEO of the Housing Collective, speaks during a legislative roundtable discussion on what can be down to get more funding for homelessness services.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
David Rich, CEO of the Housing Collective, summarized a significant part of the problem saying "We're not building enough housing. We just need more housing."

“We have a governor who fundamentally does not care about the most vulnerable, we know that and I’m not throwing a slander. That's just a fact,” Rich said. “We don't have a system accord in this state to really deal and grapple with this fundamental crisis.”

Rich clarified that The Housing Collective continues to work with the Department of Housing to find housing need solutions and provide safe, affordable options.

"Connecticut, like many other states across the country, is experiencing both a homeless and a housing affordability crisis," Rich said. "Expanded housing opportunities make our state a happier, healthier and more equitable place to live - for all of us."

Steve DiLella, Director of Individual and Family Support Programming, for the Connecticut Department of Housing (DOH), helps operate the state’s Coordinated Access Network (CAN). It assists people experiencing homelessness by connecting them to local services. DiLella said he strongly disagrees with Rich’s claims.

DOH developed the CAN system in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic and found it successful.

“The pandemic changed the lives of many people for a variety of reasons and impacted people experiencing homelessness. More people are calling into the systems seeking services and DOH is trying to manage it the best we can,” DiLella said.

During the last legislative session, $5 million was appropriated for CAN winter programming. In recent weeks, CAN learned how much each organization would receive in order to begin planning their winter shelters, DiLella said.

State Representative Corey Paris (left) contemplates the information presented by advocates like Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness CEO Sarah Fox (right).
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
State Representative Corey Paris (left) contemplates the information presented by advocates like Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness CEO Sarah Fox (right).

Abigail is Connecticut Public's housing reporter, covering statewide housing developments and issues, with an emphasis on Fairfield County communities. She received her master's from Columbia University in 2020 and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2019. Abigail previously covered statewide transportation and the city of Norwalk for Hearst Connecticut Media. She loves all things Disney and cats.

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