Homeless shelters and the people who use them are highly vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics, including COVID-19 due to large number of people living in crowded congregate settings relying on shared bathrooms and common areas. Since many shelters are closed during the day, infected shelter residents have the potential for spreading infection further among the general public.
CCEH’s data shows that 2009 people were staying in shelters at the start of March. We determined that 134 of these clients were over the age of 62 and therefore especially vulnerable to the virus. We also noted that this figure included 183 families with 346 children, and an additional 48 unaccompanied youth. These clients represented some of our state’s most vulnerable individuals and families.
In March, Governor Lamont issued an executive order catalyzing a large-scale effort to protect homeless clients and staff by “decompressing shelters.” To comply with this order, our coalition worked with the state to keep shelter staff and clients safe by relocating approximately half the shelter population from Connecticut’s 63 shelters into 15 local hotels contracted by the state. This “decompression” has made shelters safer.
What Comes Next
We know that we cannot re-turn clients to crowded congregate shelter systems, so our next step is to aggressively re-house clients in apartments. To accomplish this task, our coalition will require resources including apartment vacancies, flexible financial assistance to apply to first month’s rent and other one-time expenses, and vouchers for clients who require additional ongoing financial assistance. Our goal is to aggressively rehouse clients well into the future.