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Advocates question progress made in the fight against homelessness

HARTFORD – Governor Dannell Malloy continues to tout his housing record, including the state’s investment in more affordable housing. Some housing advocat...

HARTFORD - Governor Dannell Malloy continues to tout his housing record, including the state’s investment in more affordable housing.

Some housing advocates and Connecticut residents in need say, there’s no reason to celebrate, at least not yet.

"Nobody’s there to help me. I have to do this on my own,” said Hartford resident, Gwenn Epps.

Epps said that her life took a drastic turn after an accident at work. She’s now dealing with chronic back pain and other health problems.

Additionally, she’s on a fixed income, receiving $950 a month. She said she’s now trying to move because disability payments aren’t enough for her current apartment, which also isn’t suitable for Epps.

“It's dangerous in here for me," she said. "I'm here alone. I almost fell in the bathtub a couple of times already. The up and down the stairs.”

Epps said she can’t find an affordable and accessible home in Hartford. Many places don’t have such units, are too expensive and have years-long waiting lists, according to Epps.

FOX 61 went to the agencies overseeing affordable housing for those with disabilities to find out what’s being done to fix this problem.

After weeks of repeated requests, a spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said, “Thank you for the interview offer, unfortunately I do not have anyone available to grant your interview request.”

At the Connecticut Department of Housing, Commissioner Evonne Klein sent an email in response to our interview request, stating, “I`d be happy to do this. I need the exact info tho. It seems we have some time."

A spokesperson later replied, stating in part, "The Commissioner is unavailable. We're working to correct nearly 30 years of disinvestment, and we are making real progress."

On the Connecticut Department of Housing’s website, it notes the creation or preservation of nearly 8,000 affordable housing units since 2011.

Executive Director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, Erin Kemple said, most of the housing isn’t new and it’s not accessible to the increasing number of people who are disabled.

“Sometimes, someone might be able to get in to the unit, but they can't cook or get into the bathroom with their wheelchair and we're seeing there are very few units that are fully accessible,” said Kemple.

Kemple said, many building styles are exempt from including accessible units for the disabled, like townhomes. Therefore, Kemple is advocating for an expansion of the law governing standards for new construction. She said, if there’s not a change soon, it will leave people who are disabled feeling helpless and close to becoming homeless.

“It hurts to know you’ve helped so many people over the lifetime you’ve lived and nobody is there to help you. That’s the worst part,” said Epps.

FOX 61 reached out to the Governor’s Office for answers and additional insight but we were referred back to the Connecticut Department of Housing.

A spokesperson replied in part, “After nearly 30 years and three gubernatorial administrations of disinvestment in affordable housing, we’re rapidly expanding access to provide housing for our most vulnerable.”

“We have been able to provide housing to a minimum of 1,361 new people with mental health needs or disabilities since 2013 alone,” said Daniel Arsenault.

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