Fighting the Cycle of Homelessness: Community Groups Help Place New Haven Family in Home for the Holidays

The Greater New Haven Coordinated Access Network works to help the homeless community break the cycle and find a permanent place to live

Every year in Connecticut, job loss, financial troubles health problems or a devastating life event quietly leave hundreds of families with nowhere to go.

But there are community groups fighting the cycle of homelessness, and thanks to their efforts a local family from New Haven will have a place of their own this holiday season.

Zelema Harris found herself living in her car when the initial expense of getting into an apartment was far out of reach.

“I started working and my job is a good job but I was not able to come up with a lump sum at the drop of a dime,” Harris said.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to get off the streets- the clearing of an overdue utility bill, catching up on back rent, repairing a car, or coming up with a down payment on a new apartment.

Thanks to the collaborative work of the Greater New Haven Coordinated Access Network, Harris received the help she needed and ended her days of homelessness.

“I got approved, and I was completely shocked and grateful ‘cause I didn’t think this was going to happen for me, and I told my kids and they were ecstatic,” she said.

Harris’ new home is the happy ending groups like the United Way of Greater New Haven and New Reach work hard to see.

“We know that diverting people from shelters is better as long as they are diverted safely,” explained KellyAnn Day, CEO of New Reach. “And that they stay diverted that they don’t come back to the system.”

In total, the groups have worked to get 40 families off the streets and into homes. Harris said when she found out it was happening for her family, she got emotional.

“I cried, I was in tears because this is something we’ve been waiting for so when you get that, all I could do is thank God.”

“This is what it’s all about, so families that were literally homeless, they did not know where they were going to go and at the door of a shelter and now we’re able to make sure they’re home for the holiday. That’s the most exciting thing we could do,” said Amy Casavina Hall, chief impact officer for the United Way of Greater New Haven.

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