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Number of Homeless Vets Increases Steadily

Helping homeless military families with grants and affordable housing

According to the U.S. Veterans Administration the number of veterans’ families in its homeless programs is marching steadily upward. In 2012, 4,383 veterans’ families, or 86 percent more than in 2009, required VA assistance.

 “In the military community there is a higher percentage than in the civilian community,” said State Sen. Carlo Leone, a Democrat representing Stamford and Darien in the 27th Senate District and co-chair of the Veterans Committee.

To help mitigate homelessness the committee is looking into ways to make more supportive affordable housing available to military families in need. Leone said the committee will explore various non-profit and private sources to help. One idea is to refurbish vacant homes for military families.

One local foundation shows what a difference one person can make. The New Canaan-based Peter Wojtecki Foundation helped three veterans in 2011, for a total of more than $10,000 in grants.

While the number of homeless veterans’ families has been increasing, the total number of homeless veterans, mostly single males, dropped 12 percent in 2011, according to the VA. The annual Homeless Assessment Report showed 67,495 homeless veterans counted on a single night in January 2011, a drop from 76,329 the previous year.

PLAY FAIR WITH THE FARE

“The administration is doing exactly what I feared it would do regarding the train fares,” state Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican representing Wilton and Norwalk in the 143rd House District. “It has proposed reducing the state's subsidy to both rail and bus transit, as a consequence of the 4 percent increases.”

“Money from the fare increases should go to improving that system--as I understand it, the rate hikes were sold on that basis.  I take my lead on these issues from Gail Lavielle, who is terrific,” said state Sen. Joseph Markley, a Republican representing Cheshire, Southington, Wolcott and Waterbury in the 16th Senate District.

Lavielle said it appears the state may also put part of that money into the general fund. “So passengers are paying for a service, and the money is being used for something else,” she said.

Aside from Lavielle, many lawmakers are on board with H.B. 5067, proposed legislation to keep bus and rail fare increases for bus and rail upgrades.

Here is a list of other local lawmakers who support the bill:

  • State Rep. Jason Perillo, a Republican representing Shelton in the 113th House District.
  • State Rep. Laura Hoydick, a Republican representing Stratford in the 120th House District.
  • State Rep. Lawrence Miller, a Republican representing Shelton and Stratford in the 122nd House District.

TRACKING SEX OFFENDERS AFTER RELEASE

This year the state focuses on sex offenders to see how well Connecticut is doing reducing crime and becoming more efficient. According to a Feb. 15, 2012 report, recidivism and changes in the correctional population are two key signs of how well the system is working.

“We believe this will provide policy makers and practitioners with the data and analysis they need to identify offenders with a high risk for committing new sex offenses following release from prison. At the end of the day, our goal is public safety by reducing the level of recidivism. Based on our analysis, post-release supervision focused on the high-risk sex offenders appears to be a cost-effective strategy to prevent crime,” wrote Mike Lawlor, under secretary of Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Division, State Office of Policy and Management in the introduction.

The study tracked 14,393 men for a five-year period following their 2005 release or discharge from a Connecticut prison in 2005.  According to the report this is the first time the state has measured offenders with previous sex offense convictions as well as convicted offenders who were originally charged as sex offenders but who were ultimately convicted of other offenses. 

Over the next five years, 286 of these men were arrested and charged with sex offenses committed after they were released from prison. Of those, 134 men were convicted for new sex offenses after release and 99 were returned to the prison to begin new prison sentences for a sex crime. Of the 99 men who received prison sentences for new sex crimes, only 13 had served a prior prison sentence for a sexual offense.

The report said readers should  “recognize, however, that these men were not the only men released from prison in 2005 who had been involved in prior crimes in which a significant, criminal sexual component had been present. These 746 men were the only ones who had actually been convicted for specific sexual offenses and sentenced to prison.”

That doesn’t assuage Markley.

“I think the high recidivism rate is a good reason not to expand early release for violent criminals, as the legislature did last year at the governor's urging,” Markely said.

Read the full report.

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