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New London County Setting New Standard for Housing Assistance Programs

United Way of Southeastern Connecticut was named the grantee of funds in a coordinated effort to end homelessness in New London County.

The New London – Norwich corridor remains one of the slowest labor forces to recover from the recession and it certainly didn’t help that Mohegan Sun recently laid off approximately 300 people last month.

Although there are no apparent signs that the economy is improving in this part of the state, there is hope for people on the brink of losing their homes.

State Senator Andrew Maynard announced that the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut in Gales Ferry will be the grantee of a $250,000 fund to help prevent homelessness in New London County.

“The special funding opportunity made sense for our region, given the increased need in our community, as well as the fact that providers in our region are working together at the cutting edge of implementing best practices that provide better and more efficient service to more people in need,” said Maynard in a conference last week.

“The New London County Fund to End Homelessness represents an important opportunity for us to achieve sustainable housing solutions for homeless single adults, as well as families,” said Cathy Zall, executive director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center.

But more importantly, the fund will be used to prevent homelessness,  said Lisa Tepper Bates, executive director of the Mystic Are Shelter & Hospitality (MASH).

"We are the only system in Connecticut who, through this special opportunity, can help divert families who otherwise are going to be homeless. No one else in the state is doing it at this level," she said.

Prevention she said, has a far greater cost benefit in the near future and long term.

"The strongest indicator that a child as an adult will seek shelter is if they were sheltered," said Tepper Bates. "If they say 'shelter's not so bad' that not what any of us want. We want to prevent those children from becoming a new generation of adults who eventually become those parents."

The unique aspect about this program (other than the fact that they have been given funds in the first place) is that area organizations will be working as a unified intake system instead of separately. Participating organization include Covenant Shelter, Mystic Area Shelter & Hospitality (MASH), Thames Valley Council for Community Action Shelter, and Safe Futures – formerly the Women’s Center of Southeastern Connecticut.

According to a press release, the organizations “will be able respond more quickly to the needs of families who are homeless while making better use their combined resources.  This type of system is a best practice recommended by the Federal government and New London County is the first region in the state to develop one.”

“We know that preventing homelessness is far less costly than managing the symptoms after someone becomes homeless,” said Virginia Mason, president of United Way of Southeastern Connecticut. “This is a critical step in preventing a problem before it starts and giving everyone the opportunities for a good life.”

Families and single adults in New London County facing imminent homelessness should call the United Way statewide assistance hotline by dialing 2-1-1 for assistance. 2-1-1 is a free call from anywhere in the state of Connecticut, and professional caseworkers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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