February 18, 2021

Presented By: Gina R. Rosich, PhD, MSW

Dear Honorable Chairpersons Lopes and McGee, Vice Chair Anwar and Smith, Ranking Members Cicarella and Polletta, all other Members of the Joint Committee on Housing of the Connecticut General Assembly:

My name is Dr. Gina Rosich, a resident of West Hartford, a faculty member of the University of Saint Joseph Department of Social Work and Equitable Community Practice, and a member of the Education and Legislative Action Network at the National Association of Social Workers Connecticut Chapter. I am testifying on behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT chapter, which represents over 2,300 members.  We call upon the Joint Committee on Housing to support SB-86: An Act Appropriating Funds for Housing Resources for the Homeless and to Prevent Homelessness.

The legislative agenda for NASW-CT includes taking the position to protect safety net services. NASW-CT believes that every Connecticut resident and family should be able to meet their basic human needs, and opposes cuts to safety net programs that serve Connecticut’s most vulnerable populations.

Homeless services, including prevention and housing resources, are a vital part of Connecticut’s safety net. Thousands of lives have been saved as a result of these funds. In the year 2019, 211 received 72,021 calls for help resulting in 28,494 CAN appointments for shelter or diversion services. In 2020, the number of calls increased by 5,301 to 77,322 – resulting in a total of 25,774 CAN appointments (2,720 fewer appointments). What is most striking about the differences in these numbers is the backdrop of the COVID pandemic and the eviction moratorium put in place during our public health emergency. These numbers tell a story of increased concern about housing insecurity. We have folks seeking information who may have never before worried about losing their homes. Many individuals and families have only been able to stay in their homes because of the state’s eviction moratorium set to expire on April 20, 2021.

It is currently unknown how many households will face eviction notices once that moratorium is lifted. Yet we can be sure that many Connecticut households face a looming housing crisis, with our state’s employment rate having jumped from 3.7% in March 2020 to 8% in December 2020. Our fellow Connecticut neighbors are facing rental arrears from economic hardship the likes of which we could not have anticipated before COVID entered our lives.

Unsheltered individuals sleeping on the streets during freezing temperatures face the possibility of frostbite, other negative health outcomes, and even death from exposure to the elements. At-risk youth (teens and young adults) are particularly vulnerable to housing insecurity. Household tensions from financial and other stressors that arise as a result of COVID and COVID-related restrictions lead to increases in abuse including family violence, forcing youth to either be thrown out of their homes or leave for their own survival. Older adults, who are most at risk of death from COVID, will benefit from all the housing supports we can provide to aid them staying in place and avoiding entering shelter where congregate living quarters may increase their chances of infection.

Ensuring the ongoing funding for housing, shelter, and diversion services will protect children and families and ultimately save lives. To reject the call for ongoing funding to support these resources is nothing short of an act of cruelty and denial of the basic human right to shelter.

In closing, NASW-CT urges the committee to vote in favor of SB-86: An Act Appropriating Funds for Housing Resources for the Homeless and to Prevent Homelessness.

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