Cuts blamed for surge in homelessness

Saturday, December 7, 2013
Courtesy: 
Waterbury Republic American
Waterbury, CT

With the number of homeless people in Connecticut up 7 percent despite a nationwide downward trend, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy came to Waterbury Thursday to ask representatives from many of the city's social service agencies what could be done about it.

Their answer: Show them the money.

Murphy hosted the roundtable discussion in City Hall late Thursday morning that was attended by agencies such as the United Way of Greater Waterbury, the Salvation Army, the Waterbury Development Corp., New Opportunities of Waterbury (NOW), Acts 4 Ministry, StayWell Health Care and Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries.

William Rybczyk of NOW, co-chairman of the Waterbury Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, told Murphy projected budget cuts mean not only will his agency not be able to offer new housing vouchers for homeless veterans, but that the 250 it currently offers may see a cut, too.

Rybczyk's concern was expressed shortly after Murphy's announcement of the "admirable" drop in the state's homeless veteran population from 750 in 2007 to 341 today.

Brian Gibbons, a homeless outreach supervisor for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said the "old" idea of homeless — a single male — while still valid, is now joined with single women and whole families homeless for the first time after home foreclosures and jobs lost.

"When they fall through all these programs, they end up in the woods," said Gibbons, who often travels into Waterbury's wooded areas with Rick Povilaitis, of the Brass City Harvest urban farming charity, to make sure the homeless have food and clothing. "It's actually gotten very sad."

Other charity representatives pointed out the needs of homeless children, telling tales of students who walk great distances to school because they're living with family or friends in another district.

Later in the session, state Rep. Larry Butler, D-72nd District, laid out the money issue in no uncertain terms.

"The biggest part of solving this problem is going to be with a cash flow from Washington at some point in time," he said, adding state programs are frustrated by being continuously told the federal money isn't available.

"Until they open up that funding source to all the agencies in here," Butler said, "it's not going to get better."

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