HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Advocates for the homeless are worried about Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s new budget proposal. They say their patchwork of nonprofit organizations has worked for too long with little to no help from the state.
The Democrat unveiled his budget proposal Wednesday, and those groups and concerned lawmakers gathered Thursday to say he left something out.
“We are part of the fabric of our state’s emergency response, but we are not funded as such,” said Sarah Fox, the chief operating officer of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.
Gathered in a room in Hartford’s Legislative Office Building were the groups and organizations that help the homeless. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see the housing crisis in their communities.
“We can only house 39 people in a cold weather shelter,” State Rep. Jay Case (R-Winsted) said. “It’s small. The dollars aren’t there. We need more resources.”
The governor’s budget proposal had some $200 million for more housing, but these groups say there are homeless on the streets right now who need help. Despite the state budget surplus, homelessness is actually on the rise. Lawmakers say homelessness has gone up 40% over the past three years.
“The economic devastation that’s been caused by the COVID era and the post-COVID economy has hurt those who are most vulnerable in our state,” State Rep. Geoff Luxenberg (D-Manchester) said.
Rents have never been higher. Inflation has driven up the cost of everything.
“People are on the brink of becoming homeless,” State Sen. Herron Keyon Gaston (D-Bridgeport) said. “Not because they’re not working, not because they want to be in the position, but because they don’t make enough money.”
At the same time, funding for shelters, help lines, and other resources keep going down. That’s mainly because homeless organizations have succeeded in continuing their work with fewer resources over the years. However, they say they cannot keep up the good work without help.
“The whole housing crisis system needs to be restructured on solid foundation and not clay so that it does not crumble any more than it already has,” said Yezenia Lebron, a peer recovery assistant with New Reach.
The price tag for funding that system, they say, is $50 million.