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United Way of Connecticut works to help end homelessness

In a field focused on urgent need, United Way of Connecticut said its work on housing is one of the most vital.

HARTFORD, Conn. — United Way is addressing homelessness and housing challenges in communities across the state. 

Between all 14 local United Ways in Connecticut, there is a coordinated homeless response system that works with various community partners with the mission of ending homelessness here in Connecticut. 

In a field focused on urgent need, President and CEO of United Way of Connecticut, Lisa Tepper Bates, said the organization's work on housing is one of the most vital. 

"I don't think there's anything more important than making sure that people have a safe place to be and a roof over their heads," explained Tepper Bates. "That's where everything starts."  

Tepper Bates explained that the Connecticut United Way is working to help people experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless by providing the necessary resources to change outcomes at both an individual and systemic level. 

"That's really critical work and it saves lives every day," stressed Tepper Bates. 

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One way this work is done is through United Way's 2-1-1 call service

"We're here to provide that first step and resolve that crisis and get immediate access to shelter, especially when it's so cold out," explained Tepper Bates. 

2-1-1 provides information and referrals to callers experiencing housing crises and serves as the central intake point for the seven Coordinated Access Networks (CANs) of homeless service providers across the state, including shelter for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. 

Another way Connecticut works to end homelessness is through trusted partnerships and funding programs that help with shelter diversion efforts across the states. 

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"It creates another avenue for folks to take advantage of programs, information, assistance, advice, etc. to...curtail the issue before it actually happens," explained Matt Hoey, First Selectman of Guilford.

Hoey said United Way's shelter diversion programs have been invaluable to the Town of Guilford. 

"There are people who are struggling; the pandemic hasn't helped. But even prior to the pandemic, there were those who were living at the very edge of their means in order to be able to afford to stay in a community like Guilford," explained Hoey. 

While the work to end homelessness is ongoing, Tepper Bates stressed that it's making a difference.

"We should be proud of the truly massive team effort that our coordinated homeless response system in Connecticut has come to be," Tepper Bates said passionately. "That's how we've driven down homelessness by half in just seven years. And it's how we keep making every dollar count."

If you need rent assistance or facing a housing crisis, you can pick up the phone and call 2-1-1, and a contact specialist will help you access solutions. 

RELATED: Governor's office reports delay with arrival of state's shipment of at-home COVID tests

If you would like to help United Ways of Connecticut: 

- Give to your local United Way and help people in our state access healthy food. Text keyword THANKFUL21 to 41444 to donate.

- Contact your local United Way if you are implementing some of the strategies to help combat homelessness. 

Raquel Harrington is the race and culture reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at rharrington@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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