Saturday, July 20, 2024

People Experiencing Homelessness (PEH)

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by Jocelyn Ault
Social Justice Director
First Congregational Church
Presented to Stratford Rotary Club

Jocelyn Ault was the featured speaker for the Stratford Rotary, introducing a discussion on homelessness based on the book When We Walk By: Forgotten Humanity, Broken Systems and the Role We Can Each Play in Ending Homelessness, authored by Kevin F. Adler and Donald W. Burnes.

The book examines the intersectional systems and reasons our neighbors become housing insecure. Through current statistics and interviews with unhoused neighbors, the authors bring to life thought-provoking concepts, deeper insights, and practical solutions.

She opened her talk with probing questions: Has anyone ever felt overwhelmed or uncomfortable when seeing someone who is clearly experiencing homelessness? Maybe it is the cart full of belongings seen on the street, or maybe it is the person at the end of the ramp with a sign.

Does anyone here know someone who has or is experiencing homelessness? Someone who is or has couch surfed? Who has had to live in their car, tent or some other temporary shelter? Does anyone know someone who is living with a family member or friend because they can’t afford to be living on their own?

Ault added:

  • In the State of Connecticut 3,015 people are homeless (PEH)
  • This is a 2.9% increase over 2022- we do a point in time count in January with people visibly on the streets or in shelters. We know this is a gross under count.
  • 3,984 Students during the school years of  2021-22 were PEH.

CT Data – 2022-2023 for the State Rental Assistance Program (RAP)

  • Average wait time is 28 months
  • Department of Housing last opened waiting list in 2017
  • Of 48,000 applications submitted, only 7,000 were accepted, and of those,
    1,400 still are without their vouchers

What about Lifetime Prevalence?

  • Research suggests that about 13% of the population 20 years and older will experience homelessness at some point in their lives
  • In Connecticut, that means about 370,000 people
  • Nationally, 33,000,000+ people

So why aren’t we solving this? For years we have had increasing numbers. Just a few reasons for not solving these problems:

  • We don’t know enough. Each of us is walking around with many wrong assumptions. This is an issue with lots of opinions, and we resist digging in and getting facts.
  • We are trained to look away and avoid.
  • We think of housing people who are poor and we think of the projects and our neighborhood changing character and losing property values. The statistics show there are ways to do this, and in fact decrease the drain from social services. There are benefits from mixed use and mixed income building.
  • Deservedness.
  • We believe a whole series of myths.

Nationally, 40% of Americans are living pay check to pay check, and a $400 extra expense will mean they can’t pay their rent or mortgage that month.

So who are people experiencing homelessness? Most of those without homes are invisible- they are:

  • Mothers with children, especially with young children
  • Seniors on fixed income with health issues
  • Families who have left abusive situations
  • Youth exiled by parents – or aging out of foster care
  • Working adults who don’t earn enough to pay rent (40-45% employed)

In conclusion, Ault noted that Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” 

For further information or to join and participate in local discussions go to:

[email protected]

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