NEW HAVEN, Conn, (WTNH) – Homeless shelters are bracing for several disasters to strike all at once in the next few months. The weather will get colder, the economy could stay stagnant, the pandemic continues, and soon, the eviction moratorium could end.
Shelters like New Haven’s Columbus House do not know if they will have the resources to help everyone who will need it. Their men’s overflow shelter can, in a normal year, sleep 75 men on a cold winter night. We are still not back to normal.
“In order to safely space people 6 feet apart, the capacity of that facility would have to be much less than half,” explained Columbus House CEO Margaret Middleton.
Last winter, emergency federal funding allowed Columbus House to its clients in a hotel. Many are still there, but the funding for that runs out at the end of this month. The economic crisis continues to leave many in Connecticut worried about affording a home.
“157,000 had little or no confidence in their ability to pay next month’s rent,” said Jennifer Paradis, Executive Director of Milford’s Beth-El Center. “The global view is that there is not one state in this union where a person can afford a 2-bedroom apartment on minimum wage.”
The state’s eviction moratorium also ends on September 30th. That could trigger a huge new wave of homelessness. Homeless advocates are asking the state to take action.
“They’re asking for us to treat home – a house, a place to rest your head, the way it should be treated. Not as a business transaction, but as a need,” acknowledged State Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven).
The new state budget does have an additional $5 million to fight homelessness, but it’s not enough when Covid leaves traditional shelters too risky. Those trying to help want us to keep all these unknowns in mind.
“Imagine, on a day like today, during a global pandemic., a tropical depression, back-to-back heatwaves, an overdose crisis, a mental health crisis, political unrest you don’t have a home,” said Paradis.
The fact is there are still too many unknowns. especially with state and federal funding still a mystery. Columbus House is simply not sure how it’s going to take care of everyone this winter.