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Homeless housing challenge has placed 141 people so far

New London — Since 2007, Tyrone Turner’s living situation was anything but stable. He found himself living with family, friends and even in local shelters.

In April, Turner, 60, again found himself with no place to live so he turned to the Covenant Shelter of New London. But this time around his stay would not last long. He was only there for one day.

Turner, with help from the Southeastern Connecticut Coordinated Access Network, a subcommittee of the region’s Partnership to End Homelessness, was one of 141 people who found permanent, stable housing during the 100-Day Challenge to End Homelessness that started on March 9.

Turner went to the shelter on April 3. A housing coordinator from the Thames Valley Council for Community Action met with him that same day and was able to provide him $394 — $197 for first month’s rent plus the security deposit.

He is now living in a one-bedroom apartment at 127 Hempstead St.

“I feel like I’m free,” said Turner. “I feel like I don’t have to worry anymore.”

Turner, who was been drug-free since 2008 after undergoing intensive rehabilitation for 13 months for his addiction to crack cocaine, said he has no intention of being homeless again.

He started receiving disability payments last year because of various health conditions, but he worked in the kitchen at the Mystic Hilton before new owners took over in 2014 and let some staff go.

“The problem is that New London doesn’t have any jobs,” said Turner. “This is a tourist town. You have to travel to Mystic or Pawcatuck for work ... and the bus doesn’t run regularly.”

He says living in a shelter is an experience that one has to go through to fully understand. He says there are different personalities one has to deal with, no privacy and it just doesn’t feel like home.

“If you’re homeless, you have to be patient,” said Turner. “If you want to find a place, you have to do some legwork. You got to show initiative. You have to show that you want to be helped because no one is just going to do it for you.”

Jodie Craig-Atkinson, executive director of Covenant Shelter, said in addition to the 141 single adults who found permanent housing, another 10 people have been issued permanent supportive housing certificates and will move into housing when it becomes available, and she said an additional 18 housing certificates will be given out in the coming weeks to homeless individuals, bringing the total of people who found permanent housing to 169.

She said that past efforts show that 85 percent of those who find permanent housing will not go back into a shelter.

“When a homeless person enters shelter, it is not only that shelter’s problem,” Craig-Atkinson said. “It is the community’s problem because it affects us all.”

She said the “rapid results” approach used by the area shelters aims at having people out of shelters within 30 days. She said this is done by bringing advocates, service providers and others to put existing resources together and using them more effectively.

Craig-Atkinson says the most common reasons for a person needing shelter is a family break-up or the loss of a job.

She also said that affordable housing in the region is hard to find, noting that the minimum wage is not enough to cover fair-market rent.

“Now with single adults, we are pushing more roommate situations so they can afford to pay for rent,” she said. “The longer a person stays in shelter ... they start to lose faith in ever finding a home, they start to get depressed.”

During the 100-day challenge several goals were set forth, including the creation of a housing placement team that coordinates exit strategies into permanent housing; the establishment of a point person for each housing resource available; having that point person go to the shelter and directly meet with clients; and establish weekly meetings to identify those most in need of housing resources.

A total of $45,000 was provided by the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut and the Melville Charitable Trust to help the region meet its goals.

Craig-Atkinson says community case management continues for the person once they find housing. She said the support system is necessary to help the person maintain housing.

She said they also work with landlords to help place clients, often negotiating terms of a lease and guaranteeing the first month’s rent and a security deposit.

The challenge is part of Connecticut’s efforts to end homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015 and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. During this year’s challenge, 24 veterans found housing.

Earlier this year, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that Connecticut was one of four states chosen for Zero: 2016, a national initiative organized by the nonprofit Community Solutions and dedicated to ending veteran and chronic homelessness within the next two years.

i.larraneta@theday.com

Twitter: @larraneta

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