Many people in Greater New Haven are working passionately and diligently to reduce homelessness in the region, but one major aspect of the problem remains frustratingly difficult to get a grasp on – homeless families.
“It’s the ‘black hole’ in the world of homelessness, understanding homeless families,’” says Amy Casavina Hall, senior director of Income and Health Initiatives at United Way of Greater New Haven.
A new expansion of a federal child welfare pilot program may offer some help. Federal officials this week announced a $35 million, five-year expansion of the program, which will provide housing and case workers to homeless families at risk of having children enter foster care. Read more about the program here.
Connecticut is among five regions getting some of that money, with the state Department of Social Services slated to receive several million dollars to help homeless families. A main goal is to reduce the number of children entering the foster care system.
Typically, a person or family is homeless for at least a year before they make their way into the shelter system, says Casavina Hall, making it extremely difficult to grasp how many individuals and families are homeless at any given time.
“We have no idea how many homeless families there are,” she says, but there clearly is a huge need for services for them in this region.
Casavina Hall says that those serving the homeless report "hundreds" of calls from families requesting help -- way beyond the local capacity.
Life Haven in New Haven, for instance, a temporary shelter for homeless pregnant women and homeless women with young children, serves 20 families at a time, more than 150 annually. Columbus House doesn't serve families at its New Haven shelter but operates a family facility in Middletown.