Making gains on chronic homelessness


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — A simple act of making tea in her own apartment, had been out of reach for Katherine Walsh.  She was chronically homeless for 3 years.

“It feels good to have my own stove,” said Walsh of New Haven.

Her apartment provides a much needed dose of peace and safety.  Escaping domestic violence, Walsh landed in one shelter after the next.  Then, her grown son became sick and passed away.  All the stress left its mark.

“I was diagnosed with PTSD, severe depression, mainly severe depression from things I’ve been through,” said Walsh.

For people like Walsh, who have been homeless for more than a year and suffer from a health condition, it used to take years to be placed in housing.  Now, a partnership between United Way, Columbus House and other homeless service providers can put a chronically homeless person in housing in less than 90 days.

“We make sure they have everything they need to be successful,” said Amy Casavina Hall, the Chief Impact Coordinator of the United Way of Greater New Haven. “Beds to sleep on, drawers to put their clothes in and cleaning products. Things we all need to remain housed. Then they get matched to the services they need.”

Since the program started in January 2015, the partnership of homeless service providers have placed 200 of Greater New Haven’s most vulnerable and chronically homeless people in housing.

“We have one list in Greater New Haven that we put folks on,” said Casavina Hall.  “And, we prioritize that against the people who are most vulnerable. We’re actually measuring whose vulnerable to die if they remain homeless.”

The people who qualify pay 30 percent of their income for rent and receive services. Casavina Hall says for every person placed in housing it saves the state, on average, about $16,000 a year.

“And the great thing we know about this, here and other places, is that if we house someone here that has a long term history of homelessness and a disabling condition that they will successfully remain housed,” said Casavina Hall.  “This works.”

After being through so much, Walsh is grateful for this opportunity.

“Getting out of a a very bad domestic situation and then my son’s health, losing my son, it’s like I don’t know how I really cope but I’m very religious,” said Walsh.  “I kept faith. I kept God in my life and never gave up hope.

She smiles as she pulls out her keys.

“I moved in two days before Thanksgiving, November 22, it feels great that I’m not homeless anymore.”

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