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Letter: Poverty on the Rise Throughout County

STAMFORD, Conn. — The following is a letter from Rafael Pagan Jr., executive director of the Shelter for the Homeless in Stamford.

Homelessness exists in Fairfield County. And with Census Bureau data showing a marked increase in the poverty rate in Fairfield County – at 9.4 percent in 2010, up from 8.3 percent in the previous year – corresponding and sustained increases in homelessness are likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

According to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness January 2011 Point-in-Time Study, chronic homelessness has increased 26 percent among all adults without children. Among homeless adults sleeping in places unintended for habitation, in Connecticut there has been a 37 percent increase in chronic homelessness since 2009.

And while homeless people statewide are relatively well educated – 71 percent of homeless adults had a high school education or higher and more than a quarter of these people reported further education in technical, college or graduate schools – lack of affordable housing is the primary cause of homelessness.

Consider this . . . In the Stamford-to-Norwalk metropolitan region, the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is more than $1,800. To afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30% of its income on housing, a household must earn $34.83 hourly or $72,440 annually. For a minimum wage worker earning $8.25 hourly, this would require 24 hours of work, 7 days a week for 52 weeks!

At Shelter for the Homeless, we are working to address the issue of homelessness – through our Emergency Shelter and Supportive Affordable Permanent Housing – and we are developing new units of affordable housing for those who are homeless.

As the extended recession continues to push more people into joblessness, poverty and homelessness, we will aggressively pursue all available solutions to meet the growing demand by providing hope and opportunity to the men and women who come to us for assistance.

In the meantime, we will continue our daily Outreach Program – particularly during the winter months. SFH staff will visit downtown areas, parks, train stations, soup kitchens and other sites to locate homeless individuals. We will tell them about the programs we offer, as well as other available community resources, and encourage these individuals to accept the available services.

Even though many of you reading this letter don’t see it, homelessness does exist in the wealthiest county in Connecticut.

I encourage you to take a moment during the holiday season to find out more about this alarming trend and what you can do to help end homelessness.

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