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New Britain advocates rally for housing security

Members and volunteers of the New Britain Racial Justice Coalition take to the streets around town to pass out food, water, handwarmers, and emergency blankets to those that are out on a cold December night.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Members and volunteers of the New Britain Racial Justice Coalition take to the streets around town to pass out food, water, handwarmers, and emergency blankets to those that are out on a cold December night.

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Social justice advocates gathered Thursday in downtown New Britain to raise awareness of ongoing housing insecurity. Despite the low temperatures, the group was determined to make their voices heard and bring attention to the increasing number of homeless families in the area.

Alicia Strong, the executive director of the New Britain Racial Justice Coalition, said there has been a rise in evictions, particularly among Black and Hispanic individuals.

"We've been seeing a lot of homelessness, and yet the city and the state are not investing enough resources to help eliminate and prevent these issues.”

Advocates said police-community relations and people experiencing homelessness have been unaddressed the last few years.

“We have many people in our community who actually are living in tents that they set up around the city and there have been numerous incidents where police officers have come and destroyed the tents and they had nowhere to go,” Strong said.

Alicia Strong of the New Britain Racial Justice Coalition at a rally downtown to address growing housing concerns in the city. Afterward, members and volunteers walked around town passing out emergency blankets, hand warmers, food and water to those in need.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Alicia Strong of the New Britain Racial Justice Coalition at a rally downtown to address growing housing concerns in the city. Afterward, members and volunteers walked around town passing out emergency blankets, hand warmers, food and water to those in need.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that 26% of households in New Britain are at risk of homelessness.

Henri Alphonse Mendoza, an organizer with the CT Tenants Union, said his organization advocated for the Cap The Rent lobbying campaign that took place during the last legislative session. The effort aimed to prohibit landlords from increasing rent over 3% each year.

“They've done some different laws throughout the years. Landlords find it's cheaper to just pay the fine then actually do what the law tells them to do,” Mendoza said.

Concern was also raised about escaping housing insecurity.

“It’s becoming very hard for people who have been to prison to find places because landlords are background checking,” Strong said.

John McNamara, a New Britain alderman, attended the event and said he hopes the city can develop quick responses to the housing crisis.

“The city has had a homelessness initiative that I hope can get revitalized,” McNamara said. “The city is expending money for affordable housing it's in the pipeline, but it can't get here soon enough.”

Advocates pointed to missed opportunities to meaningfully address housing insecurity in the past.

“The different municipal governments they're just awarding contracts to different people that build apartments,” Mendoza said. “And they're not really focused on building anything that's actually affordable; the ones that they do build they're not really affordable for the average person.”

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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