Strapped For Money, Shelter To Close

Christopher Peak Photo A shelter for homeless families will close next month, as its parent agency struggles to balance its books — and meet the need for emergency beds even as industrywide policy shifts towards longer-term supportive housing.

The Careways Shelter for Women and Children will be shuttered to stabilize two more family shelters and other housing programs that New Reach, Inc., runs in New Haven and Fairfield Counties.

Careways, a 10-unit shelter, got its start 27 years ago after a Yale Divinity student and a landlord teamed up to convert a rooming house into a shelter for young moms with nowhere else to go. The first facility that New Reach operated, its scheduled closure has dealt an emotional blow to the staff’s morale.

By the third week of August, the 10 families who are currently residing at Careways in the Hill will all move out. Some were already scheduled to move into some of New Reach’s 100 affordable and supportive housing units (meaning long-term, on-site help). The rest will head to New Reach’s other two shelters, Life Haven and Martha’s Place, which together have 38 units, or if all the beds are taken, to Spooner House in Shelton and Beth-El Center in Milford. (New Reach keeps the locations of small shelters like Careways out of the public eye to protect the residents.)

The organization owns the building. It doesn’t have plans to sell, CEO Kellyann Day said; it hopes to reopen the building for a mission-aligned, financially feasible purpose in the future.

New Reach just doesn’t have the money to keep the facility open any longer without stretching its other programs far too thin, Day said in an interview at the agency’s headquarters at 153 East St. on Thursday afternoon.

“This is a difficult time for our state and the families that we serve. We are doing all we can — and we can do a lot — to limit negative impacts on our clients and the community we serve,” Day said. “Closing Careways is an unfortunate but necessary step to ensure our other shelters remain financially secure.”

The nonprofit’s leadership first fretted it would have to close the shelter in 2015 to make up a $553,000 deficit. (To put that in comparison, in the latest public tax return, filed in 2014, New Reach reported $5.67 million in expenses, $1.53 million of which went to the emergency shelters.) Day said the organization since been hit by a “perfect storm.”

The federal government has increasingly shifted dollars to constructing affordable housing and providing rental subsidies as solutions to family homelessness, rather than keeping shelters open, she noted. While Day acknowledged permanent housing is “the key to ending homelessness,” she argued that shelters are still a necessary part of the system. “They need to be housed tonight,” while a more stable situation is lined up, she explained.  In fact, even as more affordable housing opened, her agency hasn’t seen demand flag. If anything, the need for beds has increased, she said.

The state, meanwhile, has improved regional response systems with eight Coordinated Access Networks (CAN) that share information and assessments, rapidly re-house the homeless and provide clients with necessary services. But Connecticut hasn’t kept up with increasing costs of operating a shelter. “The funding has stayed the same or gone down,” Day said, even as she needed to add new line items for expenses, like an IT system to share intake data with the CAN and results with their backers. The state surely can’t catch up now, as it faces a $5 billion deficit of its own over the next two years.

Local philanthropy and the city budget probably couldn’t make a substantial dent in what’s needed to cover the costs at Careways, added Day, who sees another side of the picture as a member of The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s board of directors. To be clear, she still needs all the support she can get from local donors: Day is hoping those who funded Careways recognize it was “the best financial decision” and continue to back the organization’s other shelters, she added.

Day was clear that she wasn’t assigning fault to the government. “In no way do I blame the state or the city for the decisions we need to make,” she said. “This is something that is happening throughout New England. I think we’re struggling right now, as nonprofits, to keep up.”

To stabilize next year’s budget, Day is assuming that state funding will remain flat. Even at that level, New Reaches will have to reduce costs across the organization to stay solvent. In addition to closing the Careways shelter, the agency plans to eliminate several positions from the 85-person staff, including a receptionist and administrative positions; to cut services, like food and children’s programming at one shelter; and to coordinate with other nonprofits to avoid duplicative initiatives. And then, there’s the usual belt-tightening: “no longer buying paper, pens and water bottles, no longer renting space, paying for parking, going out to lunch or ordering pizzas,” Day said.

“We’re nervous to spend any money. We don’t have a clear picture of what the funding is going to look like,” she continued. “The biggest struggle with not having a state budget is that it’s hard for us to budget. Obviously, there’s a level of anxiety and fear on the staff level.”

New Reach is also contacting its existing network of landlords to plead for some extra time while the state’s rental assistance payments trickle in, allowing them to maintain a healthy cashflow.

If the state cuts funding, the not-for-profit will have to slash further.

In the annual point-in-time survey conducted this January, volunteers found 543 people in New Haven experiencing homelessness. Of those, 81 were parents and 141 were children, constituting nearly one-fifth of Connecticut’s total family homelessness. The final tally represented a 13 percent drop overall compared to the prior year, but a 4 percent increase for those who were facing an emergency.

Day said paring back services was a shame, considering how recently the state ended veteran homelessness and is approaching an end to chronic homelessness. (By “end,” she means creating a functional zero, where losing one’s shelter is a “brief, rare and nonrecurring” experience, not that it never happens.) She said she didn’t want to “lose the momentum” that they needed to end homelessness for families and for unaccompanied youth.

“We’re saving lives [at New Reach] every day. Can you imagine being homeless today?” Day said, looking at the rain outside. “With three little kids? With nowhere to go?” She added, “Protecting some of our most vulnerable citizens and providing the necessary aid to women and children in our community is not an easy task, but it’s one that we must not abandon.”

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posted by: wendy1 on July 28, 2017  8:46am

I am out of $$  but Yale could easily save this place.  I will call Kellyann at 9AM and offer to meet with her and Salovey immediately.  Somewhere in that man is a heart…..I hope.

If I get rich again, my dough will pay for food, sleeping bags, buildings’ rents.  We cannot abandon our neighbors just because they have nothing.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 28, 2017  10:36am

The governor said the other day there is a very real possibility there will be no state budget until some time in the Fall. I urge all citizens to call your state legislators - particularly those in the house, where they seem to have their collective head up their arse as they suck up to the unions, demand higher taxes on all of us, and yet more taxes on the rich, and on those homeowners who use heating oil for heat.

The single most important legislation is the state budget. People are being hurt. Services are being cut and city budgets are in jeopardy. This is yet another WTF moment.

Special Note: Watch how none of these slackards will even post on here in their defense because there is none. It’s time to pull their paychecks, perks and retirement until there is a fiscally sound state spending plan.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on July 28, 2017  12:57pm

Noteworthy, I retired from the legislature’s non-partisan staff three years ago.  Legislators, Democrat and Republican, face awful choices. There are two ways they can balance the budget - cut services or increase taxes. The recently ratified SEBAC agreement will substantially reduce pay and pension benefits for current state employees. It is highly unlikely that the unions will agree to further cuts. Laying off employees will reduce the services they provide, e.g., longer lines at DMV. And cutting municipal aid will mean the same thing at the local level.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 28, 2017  1:17pm

Kevin:

The SEBAC agreement is a bandaid on a gaping wound. It ensures there will be deficits and growing problems for more than a decade. It is not a solution. What it does is also require there be no layoffs; no facility closures etc. without offering more state jobs so the payroll is never reduced.

I don’t get paid to solve the problems. Those legislators do. They do nothing but wait to be told how to vote. Do you even think they read the budget? You think they understand the union deal? Have they even read it? Not likely. They put their heads in the sand and OUR arses in the air. They get paid to make the tough decisions. By the way, we already face long lines at the DMV. That’s not where you cut - there are plenty of other places you cut - start with new debt; go through the department and cut people - yes, some services are going to be cut. YOU CANNOT KEEP RUNNING BILLIONS IN THE RED. Nor can you continue to just raise taxes, fees, more taxes, more fees - just how many jobs do we want to lose or keep from being created so our young people and older ones have no place to work?

posted by: Peter99 on July 28, 2017  2:45pm

The problem in CT is that too much money is spent versus the money coming in. The solution is simple, raise taxes or cut spending. Wendy1 contributed to every worthy cause, but in her own words is now out of money (too much out and not enough in). Connecticut, on a much larger scale emulated her, except her choices of were to contribute were probably better. If the tax rate goes any higher in CT, the wealthy corporations and people will leave, no doubt about it. We, the middle class and the poor will then be left to shoulder the burden. I do not have an answer. I fear the death spiral has begun for CT.

posted by: RHeerema on July 28, 2017  3:26pm

So grateful for the staff and leadership at New Reach—they’ve been doing the impossible with the bare minimum for decades!  Everyone needs a safe home!!

posted by: wendy1 on July 28, 2017  4:06pm

Dont waste your time quibbling over state or fed. money.  This kind of philanthropy must come from your rich neighbors like Rick Levin, Rosa DeLauro, Cesar Pelli,  Lynne Fusco, our former and current mayors,  David Swensen,  local well-off business owners, Peter Salovey.  I have contacted most of the above today, Friday.    We cant wait for sick or greedy govt. to pull themselves together….these 10 families will be out SOON if no $$ comes in.  Rosa Delauro——24 million.  Rick Blumenthal——86 million.  Rick Levin—-20 million (?)  David Swensen—-Mucho Millions maybe a Billion or 2.  There is Pike International, a greedy bunch so far.  New Reach needs 390,000. and they need it now.

posted by: jim1 on July 28, 2017  7:48pm

Wendy 1 has done all she can right now.  It’s time for other rich people to help.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on July 28, 2017  9:09pm

@Noteworthy

Pew: Compare CT pensions to other states’ benefits.

The concessions deal attracted the attention of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a Philadelphia-based, nonpartisan policy research group.

Pew reported its analysis was provided “at the request of policymakers in the state” and was neither an endorsement nor a veto of the plan.

But Pew did recommend that legislators consider additional policy measures to complement the deal.
It noted that Connecticut is one of just four states nationally that address public-sector retirement benefits through collective bargaining.Most other states only offer them through statute, meaning they can be modified or repealed later, with or without labor’s consent, by legislatures.Pew recommended that Connecticut commission a “50-state comparative study of retirement benefits and policies” and an independent actuarial assessment “to help ensure Connecticut is in line with peer states.”The think-tank also said Connecticut should require a regular “stress-test analysis” of all retirement plans “to determine how the plan would perform during a financial crisis.”Connecticut has some of the worst-funded public-sector retirement benefit programs of any state, a problem created by more than eight decades of inadequate savings affecting pensions and retiree health care programs.

Notice Connecticut has some of the worst-funded public-sector retirement benefit programs of any state, a problem created by more than eight decades of inadequate savings affecting pensions and retiree health care programs.

The problem is not the contract.The problem is the state under funding there part of the pension system.The Blame should be on the state.Not the public sector workers who pay there share into the pension system.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 30, 2017  5:56am

I agree the pension promises are grossly underfunded. But the benefits are equally rich. They should be cut by statute, and the pensions should be brought current or certainly within actuarial balance. That means cuts to state employment, debt and programs.

The year Malloy and democrays shoved the history making multi-billuon tax increase down our throats after his “share the pain” tour, Martin Looney shoved through a state tax credit costing $125 million in new state spending.

This is the kind of stupidity that has also gotten us here.

Meanwhile, a worthy program my family has raised money for will close and not one state legislator has a word to say. We are a state run by nitwits.

posted by: wendy1 on July 30, 2017  12:24pm

Thank you Peter 99.  Old ladies dont require much and it is hard for me NOT to help my own town.

Monday before 9AM I will start bullhorning in front of Rosa DeLauro’s office bldg on Elm St. (unless it’s raining).  This will be my new hobby.  I have flyers and a low decibel bullhorn from Amazon.  So far, that women and childrens’ shelter is not out of the woods.  Will Rosa do something???  She got her rich friends in town to donate the pink marble masterpiece in front of my condo, so she can do something for New Reach….yeah???

posted by: wesunidad on July 31, 2017  9:52am

In these times when shelters in the New Haven are being closed, I suggest we close the Governor’s shelter - the Governor’s mansion and donate the money saved to those who need housing most.  The commute for the Governor would be a commendable contribution to help the neediest.