'We have a supply shortage': Fairfield groups declare housing crisis, seek more funds to address it

FAIRFIELD — The Fairfield Housing Authority has declared a housing crisis and are among several groups calling for money to address it as part of the Governor’s Allocation Plan.

“We have a supply shortage,” said Carol Martin, the authority’s executive director. “We had a supply shortage before the pandemic hit.”

The authority partnered with the Fairfield Housing Cooperation and Operation Hope, a non-profit organization focused on eliminating hunger and homelessness, to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon to request the governor and state legislature reconsider and allocate one percent of the state’s share of the American Rescue Act Plan to the housing crisis.

Carla Miklos, Operation Hope’s executive director, said these organizations were able to help thousands of homeless people during the pandemic because of funding from the CARES Act and the direction of Gov. Ned Lamont. Without the funding from the new allocation plan, she said, many services will not be able to continue and many people experiencing homelessness will not be able to be helped.

“The strives that we made under the CARES Act funding and under the direction of Gov. Lamont helped us serve thousands of homeless people by getting them off the street and into secure housing, but there is always a need,” Miklos said.

She said the need has only intensified.

“The effects of the pandemic have sort of exacerbated the effects [with] the downturn in the economy and the health crisis that the pandemic brought,” Miklos continued. “Making our housing costs rise and making it more out of reach for people with limited means or with challenges.”

Miklos says that without the funding being restored, Operation Hope and the fellow organizations lose many important services, such as the 211 Coordinated Access Network, emergency shelter coverage during cold weather and other health crises, as well as the case management component that goes along with housing to make sure that people with significant barriers are able to stabilize once they get housing.

“We lose the money that supports our entire system,” she said.

However, the groups say their reallocation proposal will solve the current issue.

Connecticut received $2.8 billion from the American Rescue Act Plan. The economic stimulus bill will be used to speed up Connecticut’s recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession.

Martin believes that the omission of the housing crisis was simply an unintentional oversight. While the allocation plan invests into shelters and nursing facilities, it has left out other needs.

“Certainly from where I sit it’s a big oversight, but I’ve been doing it for 20 years,” said Martin. “Let me just say this, I know the governor and I know many of his staff and they are big proponents of permanent supportive housing and housing our most vulnerable.”

Martin said the state has invested into short-term and existing institutional settings.

“It’s a good thing, but maybe because of the good work and success that the Coordinated Access Network has had down here with the CARES act money, folks may have had a false sense of ‘Hey we got the problem solved,’” she said. “The reality is that it isn’t solved, it was a temporary solution.”

Martin believes that collectively, the government may have been a victim to their own success, however, it would be a tremendous oversight if there wasn’t a line item in the allocation plan for the housing crisis especially, for long-term investment.

“The investment absolutely needs to go into nursing facilities, absolutely needs to go into shelters, but it also needs to go into creating permanent housing units that are affordable with services,” said Martin. “What happens three years from now when the money’s spent and everybody that doesn’t have a place to live still doesn’t or are still getting evicted?”