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Lamont expands state support to address homelessness

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(The Center Square) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has created a new panel to help address the issue of homelessness with the number of people living on the street rising.

The Connecticut Interagency Council on Homelessness will be responsible for collaborating on a multi-agency approach to strengthen the state’s homelessness prevention and response efforts.

Lamont said the council will include the heads of state agencies responsible for housing and intervention support services, including the state Department of Housing, the Department of Social Services and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“State and local governments, along with our nonprofit partners, need the resources available to them to ensure that fewer people face the possibility of becoming homeless,” the Democrat said in a statement. “Between building new housing units, addressing mental health issues, improving access to education and health care, and increasing job support, this issue must be addressed in a holistic manner.”

Lamont said the new panel will be tasked with “maximizing the use of funding for housing assistance, increasing the supply of permanent supportive housing, improving the effectiveness of rapid rehousing, and evaluating and finding solutions for expanded access to safe and affordable housing.”

The council will also look at increasing financial assistance for people experiencing homelessness, such as support for emergency shelters and investments in housing stability, Lamont said.

Lamont also asks the new council to establish an advisory committee for practitioners and advocates to provide ongoing feedback to state agencies.

He has tapped Housing Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno to serve as the council’s chairperson.

The move follows a Connecticut law that went into effect last year declaring homelessness a “public health crisis” and expanding protections afforded to these people under the state’s 2013 homeless “bill of rights.”

Under the law, the declaration will remain in effect “until the right of homeless persons to receive essential medical and mental health care services is adequately safeguarded and protected.”

Currently, there are more than 3,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in the state, including nearly 500 children, according to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.

In some Northeast states, the homeless situation has been worsened by the influx of asylum seekers following a surge of immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border. That’s because neighboring states like Massachusetts and New York have laws requiring officials to provide emergency shelter to homeless individuals, regardless of their immigration status.

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