Jessica Lopez had been homeless for five years, but transitional housing run by My Sisters Place in Hartford gave her an opportunity to get back one of her four children.
She told a group of housing advocates Thursday that if she was given the chance to live in one of the 30 proposed supportive housing units she may be able to get the rest of her children back.
“I’m scared when two years are up I won’t have a place to live,” Lopez said. “I don’t want to end up back on the street with my son.”
Lopez isn’t alone. Housing advocates throughout the state recently received a wake-up call when Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration ended its support of a $35 million commitment to build 150 new supportive housing units throughout the state.
Betsy Crum, from the Corporation for Supportive Housing, said the money for the new supportive housing units was approved in the state budget last year. She said based on that commitment housing advocates and developers spent money on building permits and site purchases in anticipation of state funding.
Jeffrey Beckham, spokesman for the Office of Policy and Management, said the state was prepared to bond $35 million through the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and pay $3 million a year in debt service, but things changed.
“We could no longer commit in good conscience to these projects,” Beckham said Thursday in a phone interview.
Crum said these 18 projects are ‘shovel ready’ and could go a long way to stimulating the economy.
Beckham said the projects may stimulate the economy in the short-term by creating construction jobs, but once the units are built the state will need to pay $6 million a year, in rent subsidies and state services, for the individuals living in the units. He said a federal stimulus package isn’t going to pay for an annual state operating expense.
John Dunne, from the Corporation for Supportive Housing, said he heard Gov. Rell this morning on WNPR talking about the federal stimulus package, which will help states build infrastructure projects like roads and bridges.
“We have people living under bridges in Connecticut,” Dunne said. Wouldn’t it make more sense to “get them out from under bridges, off the street, and into homes.”
Diane Paige-Blondet, executive director, of My Sisters Place, said it’s her goal to see to it that Lopez and others like her don’t end up on the street again.
In an effort to keep that from happening Paige-Blondet said her organization was able to convince the former owners of a vacant lot next to its Pliny Street property to spend $2 million to remediate the environmental contamination. Then My Sisters Place bought the property with the goal of developing it into 30 supportive housing units for families.
She said currently the Pliny Street location where advocates gathered Thursday houses woman and children, but the 30 new housing units would help reunite them with the men in their lives.
Paul Christie, executive director of Hands on Hartford, said his organization had hoped to build 12 permanent one bedroom apartments for homeless men and women living with HIV and AIDS. He said at this point the population he serves is stuck because they want to be independent but know it may only be matter of time before they get sick again.
He said the 12 new units would eliminate the backlog they now experience.
“I could understand this if we weren’t turning people away from shelters,” Crum said.
Crum said there has to be a continuum of services from shelters to transitional housing to supportive housing, where services are voluntary. She said the effort to end homelessness in 10 years is underway, but holding up supportive housing units will only set back.
Click here to read Melinda’s report on supportive housing in New Haven.