- Associated Press - Monday, December 17, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut experienced a 17.4 percent increase in homelessness between 2017 and 2018, according to a federal report released Monday.

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s annual assessment to Congress counted the number of homeless on one day in January 2017 and compared the tally to a day in January of this year. It found that 3,976 people experienced homelessness on the count day this year. Most were in emergency shelters or transitional housing, while 581 people were unsheltered.

But representatives for Connecticut’s Department of Housing and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the uptick was mostly due to large numbers of Hurricane Maria evacuees from Puerto Rico, who relocated to the state after the destructive storm.

“While year over year snapshots will go up and down, we should be clear that this year’s report is almost entirely attributable to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” said Malloy spokesman Leigh Appleby. “Connecticut has seen real and substantial progress on our efforts to end homelessness.”

Department of Housing spokesman Dan Arsenault noted that the report highlighted successes when it comes to combatting homelessness in Connecticut, a key issue for outgoing Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration. There were 190 veterans who experienced homelessness on this year’s count day, marking a 0.5 percent decline from January 2017. Since 2010, veteran homelessness in Connecticut has declined by 60.6 percent.

The report also shows that chronic or long-term homelessness among individuals in Connecticut has decreased 18.8 percent, or by 79 people, since 2017.

On the other hand, the report shows homelessness experienced by families increased 41 percent. Arsenault said part of that increase can also be attributed to the influx of evacuees from Puerto Rico. But he said the administration realizes there’s a need and has stepped up efforts to help families find homes.

Last week, Malloy announced the state and its nonprofit partners had matched 280 families, including 548 children and 438 adults, with housing during the last three months. It’s part of the Governor’s Challenge on Family Homelessness, a campaign that was launched in September to house as many homeless families as possible.

“I am confident that if our state continues these efforts,” Malloy said, “we can reach our goal of bringing an end to youth and family homelessness by the end of 2020.”

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