When the pandemic began, Youth Continuum’s shelter — the Young Adult Crisis Housing Program — had to cut capacity by half. Even with fewer clients, the combination of congregate living and an at-risk youth population seemed to spell disaster. “If one employee got ill, would it spread? Would that lead to a mass shutdown of the program? Then what would we do?” asked Tim Maguire, Youth Continuum’s director of housing operations. 

With additional funding, Youth Continuum was able to secure a larger space and accommodate more people. Now, the promise of vaccinations keeps the fear of spread at bay. Rigorous preparation, federal assistance and hard work from community organizers kept most of the city’s homeless population safe as the pandemic went on.

With the end of the pandemic on the horizon, community organizations are feeling a sense of relief. However, the end of pandemic-era safety nets also brings a host of new problems to New Haven’s most vulnerable populations. As vaccine eligibility expands across the country, most of us are excited about the prospect of a return to normalcy. We must continue to remind ourselves that normalcy has never served those who are most vulnerable. The end of the public health crisis also signals the end of extended unemployment payments, expanded access to services and the eviction moratorium.

Connecticut’s eviction moratorium expires today, April 19, but Connecticut renters are still protected by the federal eviction moratorium, which will remain in effect until June 30. When this moratorium ends, a flood of back-rent-related debt and mass amounts of eviction cases are likely to overwhelm the system. Though the federal moratorium is still ongoing, anti-poverty organizations nationwide are bracing for a spike in homelessness. While the ban on evictions may hold back the worst of it, the dam is about to burst. 

Even with the moratorium in place, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center reported that 1,034 people in Connecticut were removed from their homes between October 2020 and mid-March of this year. The state’s eviction moratorium prohibits a tenant from being evicted, but includes a few exceptions, including if the renter is six or more months overdue. As the pandemic continues, more and more households meet that exception every month. The Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey reports that, as of Dec. 21, nearly 20 percent of Connecticut households were behind on rent. The rates of rent shortfall are much higher for people of color — while 13 percent of white households are behind on rent, the rate is 30.5 percent for Black households and 22.2 percent for Hispanic households.

Programs like Unite CT offer as much as $10,000 in rental assistance for low-income CT residents, but even that’s not enough to stop the brewing eviction crisis. While tenants apply for these programs, the state has continued to process evictions, so those with over six months’ rent due are still at risk.

Mutual aid cannot counteract a federal crisis, but it can mitigate some of its worst effects by providing support to the most vulnerable. Now more than ever, organizations supporting those who are food and housing insecure need our help to fill the gaps left by slow-moving federal assistance. When you donate to the YHHAP Fast, your support helps New Haveners meet their most essential needs, as well as handle rent payments. By supporting a wide variety of organizations, we work to ensure that people get the care they need across a spectrum of needs, including low barrier services — programs that minimize barriers such as paperwork, waiting lists and eligibility requirements to make service as easy and accessible as possible — and long-term supports — including rental assistance, rapid and permanent supportive rehousing and integrated care programs. Donating to the YHHAP Fast today means helping service providers prepare for an influx of unhoused and at-risk individuals.

By donating, you have the chance to support three nonprofits doing on-the-ground work to protect those left vulnerable by the current crisis. Since 1990, New Reach has helped thousands of at-risk households and families achieve stability and self-reliance. Today, the agency provides a full spectrum of housing and employment services that meet the needs of at-risk families, youth and individuals: shelter programs, integrated care programs, home furnishing, rapid rehousing and permanent supportive rehousing. Youth Continuum is a nonprofit serving youth ages 14-24. They support 1,000-1,500 young people annually through emergency care, community and housing services. Loaves & Fishes supplies low-income New Haven residents with food, clothing and access to various service providers. They currently run a food pantry, grocery delivery and a clothing closet. Their mission is to promote community and equity in Greater New Haven.

To donate to the YHHAP Fast, you can Venmo @YHHAP or visit yhhap.org/donate. The fundraiser will run until this Sunday, April 25. Every dollar helps.

For those who can’t financially support the Fast, consider volunteering with any of our three beneficiaries, at a YHHAP project or with another service site.

With the end of the pandemic close at hand, keep your community in mind. Supporting community-focused organizations creates a safety net for our neighbors that will live on long after the pandemic is over, and long after we leave New Haven.

MONIKA KRASNIQI is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards college and the co-director of the YHHAP Fast. Contact her at monika.krasniqi@yale.edu