HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Homelessness is rising in Connecticut. With winter on the way, nighttime temperatures are dropping. An estimated 1,200 people in Connecticut slept outside Monday night.

“I’d like to say that today was unusual, but honestly and sadly, it’s not,” said Barbara Shaw, the executive director of Hands On Hartford. “In recent months, families, seniors, folks with disabilities, are struggling like nothing I have seen before.”

Experts say homelessness is up by 13%. That’s the bad news.

“And the good news is that we have activated our United Way Rapid Response Fund for homelessness and housing,” said Eric Harrison, president and CEO of the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.

That fund contains $100,000 to be used in the 52 towns in central and northeast Connecticut to help with basic needs for people facing serious financial challenges. The money will not buy anyone a new house — that’s not what this fund is about.

Sometimes, all it takes is something small, like an application fee or a security deposit, to keep a roof over someone’s head or to get people out of the shelter system, which is completely overwhelmed right now.

“The shelter system should be operating like an emergency room,” explained Journey Home Executive Director Matt Morgan. “People should be coming in and out very quickly, but people are going in, and we can’t get them out because we don’t have the rental assistance and services to get them out.”

Just a couple of years ago, however, they did. Federal COVID-19 assistance money lets shelters put all their clients in hotels for months. It gave many hope that there was a way to house every person in the state.

“We in Connecticut can become the first state to end homelessness. I truly believe that,” Morgan said. “All of the factors have lined up in a very possible way.”

Click here for more information about the Rapid Response Fund.