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While locals are rarely confronted with the plight of the homeless or housing insecure along the shoreline, it’s an issue that’s not limited to urban areas. To help address homelessness and housing insecurity in the Greater New Haven area, the Town of Guilford is teaming up with local partners and United Way to try to access grant funding.
At a Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting on Feb. 19, the board heard a presentation from Kelly Fitzgerald of United Way. Fitzgerald explained that United Way is the backbone agency of the Greater New Haven Coordinated Access Network (CAN), which is working to end homelessness in the area.
CAN works to bring agencies and resources together around this cause and offers a single-point of entry for those in need of help. Right now, Fitzgerald said CAN is focused on shelter diversion—in other words, trying to find a solution that doesn’t immediately jump to just putting people in shelter.
So what does this have to do with Guilford?
First Selectmen Matt Hoey said while homelessness or housing insecurity might not be obvious to some, it’s because what starts as housing insecurity locally doesn’t remain here.
“[W]e don’t have vagrants sleeping on the streets or in parks or in tents,” he said. “What typically happens...is those Guilford residents who wind up becoming homeless identify as living in New Haven because they move into the area where more services are available to them. There is no doubt homeless folks in Connecticut that were former Guilford residents.”
Fitzgerald said there are limited resources on the shoreline for those residents in a housing crisis, so often families are forced to move to New Haven to receive services.
“The other thing that might be happening in Guilford is that families are doubled up, that there are family members living with other family members and things of that nature,” she said. “Its not necessarily someone on the corner but that there are still families that are in unstable housing situations and we know that with families with children, the impact that has on the child long term is negative. Homelessness looks different across our region.”
However, Fitzgerald said the reason she and Guilford officials are in contact is because Guilford can help get more resources on the shoreline. The Department of Housing offers Community Development Block Grants to provide staff in areas outside of the big cities to work with those in a housing crisis. The key to getting that money to the region, according to Hoey, is finding an eligible town willing to apply.
“There are significantly bigger buckets of money that are being allocated to the New Haven area for the same services,” he said. “This is money that sits there and may go unused because in order to qualify to get this, you have to have a municipality of less than 50,000 apply for it. So New Haven [receives] most of the money, but this is additional money that is sitting out there with specific requirements so that the New Havens and the Hartfords and the Bridgeports don’t gobble it all. This is actually an opportunity for equity for these smaller communities that don’t necessarily have these services.”
The grant award can be as much as $350,000. What Guilford will do is simply apply for the grant and then issue a request for proposals for service providers, very similar to the process the town just went through to acquire more than $400,000 in federal money for home rehabilitation projects.
If the town receives the money, the funding goes right to the service providers, who could then place staff across the shoreline.
“We would have staff to do outreach and engagement,” said Fitzgerald. “This would allow us to increase our capacity on the shoreline...We do know there are families on the shoreline that we don’t want them to have to move into New Haven to access services.”
Hoey said the Guilford Foundation is on board with this plan and United Way would look to place those new people paid for out of the grant in locations like the Women & Family Life Center in town. Essentially, Hoey said the town’s role in the whole process is minimal.
“In large measure, we are a pass through,” he said. “We are basically a conduit, a way to get that money onto the shoreline.”
The selectmen unanimously approved applying for the grant. A public hearing on the application will occur in the coming month. Check the town website for further information.
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