April 4, 2024

Planning and Development Committee Chairs Advance Proposal to Shelter People Experiencing Homelessness

Sen. MD Rahman and Rep. Eleni Kavros DeGraw, co-chairs of the General Assembly’s Planning and Development Committee, advanced legislation last month to allow religious organizations the option of providing temporary housing for people experiencing homelessness.

The bill, HB 5174, allows religious organizations to install temporary shelter units on their properties for people experiencing homelessness and refugees in communities with at least 25,000 residents.

“We have a moral obligation as a legislature to provide for the people who desperately need a place to live,” Rahman, D-Manchester, said. “We have a moral obligation as citizens to bring people in from the cold weather outside. Every human needs three things in order to survive — shelter, food, and health care. Some of our neighbors do not have access to these necessities and we must at least allow our faith leaders the option of sheltering them.”

“We have over a thousand people living outside and more than 4,000 people living in our homeless shelters,” Kavros DeGraw, D-Avon, said. “This week, it dipped below 30 degrees at night. Our churches, temples, and mosques are part of the solution with the services that many of them already provide as part of their mission-driven work and this bill allows them to further that service.”

The legislation, which now heads to the House for consideration, would allow municipalities to limit the installation to a maximum of eight temporary shelter units. The bill also allows municipalities to impose restrictions like a cap on the size of the shelters at 400 square feet and a prohibition on shelters within 1,000 feet of any elementary or secondary schools.

“Our cities have borne the weight of caring for our unhoused citizens and by having these potential tiny shelters across Connecticut, faith communities that would like to assist in this effort will now have more flexibility to do so,” Kavros DeGraw said.

Rahman, a Bangladeshi immigrant, pushed back against efforts by some Republican members of the committee to disparage provisions of the bill to temporarily house refugees using scare tactics designed to incite anxieties over immigration.

“I am the product of immigration,” he said. “I came here 25 years ago. I worked hard. I saved my money and opened a business. I became a landlord, a business owner, and nonprofit founder. I’m an immigrant and I’ve created many jobs in the state of Connecticut.”

Rahman stressed that the policy does not represent a mandate on communities. Instead, it provides Connecticut faith leaders an option to assist members of the community who are in most need of help.

“This bill gives religious organizations an option,” Rahman said. “They can open a shelter or choose not to. We all trust our religious facilities and their leaders not to harm our communities. They are our backbone.”


Posted by Hugh McQuaid