Housing Committee

March 10, 2022

Submitted by: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

The National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter representing nearly 2,400 members supports HB 5346. There are individual and societal causes of homelessness that can be effectively addressed by the intervention of a social worker. This bill would set up pilot programs that will give persons utilizing emergency shelters with direct access to social work services.

According the CT Coalition to End Homelessness, more than 4,500 people are homeless on any given night in Connecticut– with nearly 1 in 5 being children. Homelessness is fiscally taxing on public support systems, costing far more than it would cost to have social workers in shelters to assist in addressing the needs of homeless individuals and families.

The main causes of homelessness include unaffordable housing options, medical conditions, loss of income, and domestic violence. While there are many advocates working on large systems change there remains a significant need to address individuals and families utilizing emergency shelters. Social workers do both, agents for societal change and advocates for individuals and families.

By embedding a social worker in emergency shelters allows the social worker to build a level of trust that facilitates the various services a social worker is able to offer. Having a social worker on-site will provide for services such as information & referral, case management, counseling, mental health intervention, working to assure that all eligible safety net programs that are available to the person are being received. Social workers also help to secure affordable housing including attaining items to furnish a home, find employment, attaining needed physical and mental health care, and connecting the person with community support programs.

There is a growing movement amongst libraries to hire social workers to assist patrons with a wide range of social needs. Many of these patrons are homeless persons and the experience of libraries have been very positive. We have every reason to believe that placing social workers in emergency shelters will result in the same positive outcomes.

HB 5346 calls for a pilot program to be funded within available appropriations. We encourage the Legislature to not leave it at “available appropriations”, rather designating federal relief funds for the pilot program. Connecticut is in a position to fully fund such an initiative and if proven successful will save public funds now being spent on homelessness.

Social workers can help those in emergency shelters to remove the obstacles that are keeping them homeless. We urge the members of the Housing Committee to vote YES on HB 5346.

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