Journey Home recently received two grants totaling $41,000 to support the Greater Hartford Coordinated Access Network (GH CAN) with housing people experiencing homelessness during the winter. Although overall homelessness continues to decrease in the Capitol region, and chronic homelessness remains at record lows, unfortunately, this season has brought new challenges with a rise in unsheltered homelessness. This means more people have been turning to the streets because there is a flow issue within the system. Simply put, those who are currently in emergency shelters are not able to exit out of the shelters and into housing. That means we cannot currently accommodate everyone who needs a warm place to sleep. There are several factors that may have contributed to this increase in unsheltered homelessness. Two shelters in the Capitol region are currently under construction, and are therefore temporarily closed, with a combined loss of almost 100 shelter beds. We have seen fewer openings in the supportive housing, rapid rehousing, and housing choice voucher programs in the region over the past year. From a broader perspective, the ongoing rise in poverty as documented by Data Haven and by the United Way ALICE Reports may mean additional people who are in crisis are turning to CAN for help or turning to the streets when there is no space in the shelters.
To address the rise in unsheltered homelessness, Journey Home has advocated for funders to invest more in rental assistance, security deposit assistance, and flexible funds to help people exit shelter faster and get into housing. This will help free up more space in the shelters. We also have advocated for increasing the capacity in the warming center this year. Thankfully, the City of Hartford and the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut have responded to this advocacy during this crisis. The City of Hartford has increased the capacity of the warming center, and moved the site to a larger space that could accommodate cots, and new churches have stepped up to assist with hosting homeless families during the winter. The City of Hartford has awarded $21,000 and the United Way has awarded $20,000 to Journey Home to try to increase the flow of individuals into and out of shelter by providing more rental assistance, security deposit assistance, and flexible funding to help individuals overcome barriers to housing, and to prevent individuals from becoming homeless. Journey Home will partner with the CAN agencies to roll these new resources out as soon as possible. While these new grants will help to address the crisis, there is still an enormous need for more resources to help people access the housing they deserve, and to be able to accommodate all those who are seeking a warm place to stay.