During the past year, programs at Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp. in Hartford served more than 9,700 men, women and children who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. We know that a great need for affordable housing exists in Hartford and statewide. When Connecticut opened its waiting list for rental assistance programs recently, there were an estimated 50,000 applicants for 1,000 available state rental subsidy certificates and Section 8 vouchers.
In Hartford, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $827 a month. A household spending 30 percent of its income on housing must earn $33,108 a year or $2,759 a month in order to afford that rent.
The individuals and families who seek assistance through Mercy Housing and Shelter earn significantly less. Homelessness equates to "houselessness." The lack of affordable housing may determine whether a family becomes homeless and remains homeless.
To address the housing needs of our clients and those across the country with very low incomes, U.S. Reps. John Larson, Christopher Shays and Christopher Murphy co-sponsored the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act. The legislation will establish a dedicated fund to provide communities across the country with the means to build, preserve and rehabilitate housing for people with the lowest incomes by providing resources for 1.5 million affordable housing units over a 10-year period.
Similar legislation has been proposed in years past, but this bill is now gaining traction.
In recent weeks, the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act bill passed through the House Committee on Financial Services, where it was supported by committee members Murphy and Shays. This legislation, if passed, will help solve the affordable housing crisis now faced by individuals and families in the Hartford area, and across the state and nation.
The goal of Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp. is to end homelessness. We do that individually for our clients. More than 220 of our clients moved from homelessness to permanent housing this past year. We strive to challenge the pervasive and entrenched systems that make people homeless and that put so many others at risk of losing their housing. With the state's support, we are making steady progress locally and statewide in ending long-term homelessness through the creation of new supportive housing units.
The affordable housing created by the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund would provide additional housing opportunities for those of our neighbors who must choose, on a daily basis, whether to buy food, pay for needed medications or pay the rent.
The passage of the affordable housing act will give communities in Greater Hartford and across the nation the opportunity to make strides toward ending homelessness by providing safe and affordable housing for so many low-income families.
Sister Patricia McKeon, RSM, is executive director of the Mercy Housing and Shelter Corp. in Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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