Deniz Saip

Connecticut is well on its way to eliminating chronic homelessness in 2016, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced during a press conference in New Haven earlier this month.

Malloy’s Jan. 8 announcement marks another milestone in Connecticut’s ongoing efforts to eliminate chronic homelessness — long-term or repeated homelessness for a year or longer — in the state. The governor had previously announced in August 2015 that the state had ended chronic homelessness among Connecticut veterans. Speaking at the West Village Apartments, Malloy attributed Connecticut’s success to the substantial progress the state has made in erecting affordable housing units, especially in urban areas. Malloy said Connecticut’s homeless population has reached historic lows, with results from the state’s annual point-in-time survey showing that the number of chronically homeless has dropped by 21 percent and the number of unsheltered homeless has fallen by 32 percent in the past year.

“When [Malloy] created the Department of Housing in 2013, he sent a very clear message that housing development needed to be a priority, that our state needed to invest more in its most vulnerable residents, workforce and families,” Department of Housing Commissioner Evonne Klein said at the press conference. “And we’ve done just that.”

Much of the progress made in reducing chronic homelessness has come from the state’s investment in affordable housing, totaling over $1 billion through his two terms, Malloy said. He added that since his term began in 2011, roughly 18,000 housing units have been either created or preserved, 15,000 of which are classified as affordable housing.

The bulk of that housing investment has gone toward the state’s urban centers. Nearly 2,000 units have been built in New Haven since 2011, with roughly another 5,000 units total in Waterbury, Hartford and Bridgeport.

Jim Paley, the executive director of New Haven’s Neighborhood Housing Services, said in an interview that state action has boosted the city’s efforts to expand homeownership in New Haven.

“While our organization does not work specifically with the homeless population, funding has certainly been made available by the Malloy administration through the Department of Housing to bring homeownership within reach for low- and moderate-income families in New Haven,” Paley said. “State funding has also enabled nonprofit developers to produce high quality rental units for low-income renters.”

A needs assessment on homelessness in New Haven prepared for the city government last month detailed that the composition of the city’s homelessness population mirrors the state’s. The report called for the city to address the housing-stock challenge by working with city, state and federal stakeholders and policy influencers in identifying more affordable housing opportunities, including expanding the number of publicly funded subsidized units. Other recommendations included the close scrutiny of state and local policies and programs to align with federal goals.

The report also identified a shortage of emergency shelter and stable housing for families, youth, single females and prison re-entry subpopulations in the city, but stated that more information was required to establish the number of housing units needed to aid these subpopulations. Likewise, the report supported developing a data-monitoring strategy for the system of care for the homeless.

A 2014 point-in-time survey found that 28 percent of New Haven’s homeless population is chronically homeless.