NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – It is the first program of its kind, and it is happening right here in New Haven. Local Head Start programs are making sure needy kids have rooves over their heads.
Everyone knows Head Start gives little kids a leg up in early childhood education, but now the program does even more.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that we would ever be homeless,” said Meghan Gonzalez, mother of three. “One day you’re fine, next day you’re not.”
Gonzalez and her family are not homeless anymore, after five years of struggling for help.
“You get promised, ‘Yes, we’re going to help you,’ and next thing you know, ‘Sorry, we can’t do nothing for you,'” Gonzalez said. “It’s been a roller coaster ride and I’m just glad it’s over.”
Two of their kids come to New Haven’s LULAC Head Start, and that’s where the help came from.
“Head Start provides this really unique thing. There are wraparound services,” explained Commissioner Beth Bye of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood. “There’s counseling, there’s case management. It’s a full-service program.”
Connecticut is trying something no one else is, offering permanent housing vouchers to needy families with kids in the program
“We started small with 20 housing vouchers, thank you to the department of housing,” said Elena Trueworthy, Connecticut’s Head Start Director. “We are expanding with an additional 35 vouchers so we can reach additional head start programs.”
As good as those programs are, kids can only be helped so much if they don’t have a roof over their heads The Gonzalez family spent much of the pandemic housed in hotels used by homeless shelters. It was a temporary situation that took its toll
“There were plenty of times I broke down crying once my kids fell asleep. That was the only way I could deal with it,” Gonzalez remembered. “Now I’m happy that I can wake up in the morning and say, ‘Hey, this is my place.’ I can go to my kitchen and cook for my kids, something that I was never able to do
They have the delivery system through Head Start. They have financial support from the state and federal government. What they need now are landlords willing to help out and make sure there are places for these families to stay.