What Can I Do if I Become Homeless?
What Can I Do if I Become Homeless?
If you do not have a permanent place to live, you will have different rights and benefits depending on your situation. You may be able to get help with emergency housing, permanent housing, food, a job, and if you have children, getting them enrolled in school.
- Help for people who get cash assistance from the CT Department of Social Services
- Where do I go to get this assistance?
- What if I am denied the emergency benefits?
- Assistance for people in condemned apartments
- Other assistance
- How to get SNAP benefits (food stamps) quickly:
- Assistance for families with children
- For more information
You may be eligible to have the state pay for emergency housing and other benefits for you and your family. This help is available if you become homeless and the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS):
- provides you monthly cash benefits for families with children (TFA/Temporary Family Assistance); or
- provided your family with Diversion Assistance within the last three months; or
- provides you monthly cash benefits in the State Supplement program also called Aid to the Aged, Blind & Disabled (AABD); or
- provides you monthly cash benefits in the State Administered General Assistance (SAGA) program.
If you are eligible, DSS will pay for emergency housing once in a calendar year, for up to 60 days.
You must apply for emergency housing within 45 days of when you became homeless.
To be eligible for emergency housing, you must be homeless for one of the following reasons:
- You left your home to escape domestic violence.
- You cannot live in your home because of a disaster (such as a fire or flood) or you were ordered to leave by a local code enforcement official. (In these cases, you may get special help if your apartment is condemned.)
- The person you were living with is being evicted or has been involved in criminal activity.
- You were locked out by your landlord and you have filed a complaint with the police.
- A local official determines that a child in the household has lead poisoning from the building in which you are living (emergency housing benefits would then be available more than once per year for up to a total of 80 days).
- A judge rules that you lost your eviction case (as long as the eviction was not based on criminal activity by you), or a mortgage foreclosure case.
Note: If you are being evicted, you will not be eligible for emergency housing assistance unless a judge rules that you lost your eviction case and a "final judgment" is entered against you by the court. If you leave before then, you will be denied emergency housing assistance.
In addition to emergency housing benefits, DSS cash assistance recipients may be eligible to receive:
- Moving expenses.
- Storage costs for your possessions for a certain amount of time, depending on your situation. DSS will pay storage costs for:
- up to 90 days if you receive TFA or have received a Diversion Assistance payment in the last three months;
- up to 3 months if you receive AABD, and
- as long as you receive emergency housing assistance if you receive SAGA.
- A security deposit for heating service.
- Security deposit assistance for a new apartment if you can afford the rent.
- Repair or replacement of essential clothing or household items when the items have been damaged or are unavailable.
- Restaurant vouchers, if all meals or cooking facilities are not available at the emergency housing (only for those on TFA or AABD).
- Help with the cost of telephone installation if a phone is needed for emergencies related to health (only for those on TFA or AABD).
Note: Applicants for SAGA cash assistance may also be eligible for emergency food and medical assistance.
Contact your DSS worker and ask for the assistance you need.
If you are asking for help and have a disability that makes it hard to handle applications and redeterminations, ask your DSS worker for help. The word for this is "accommodation." You should explain your disability and tell your worker what help you need. For example, you may need help completing forms or getting documents DSS requires.
If you are denied emergency housing or other benefits, you have the right to a fair hearing. You must ask for a fair hearing in writing within 60 days of the denial. You can either ask your DSS worker for a hearing request form or write a letter asking for a hearing.
Send the letter or form to:
Office of Administrative Hearings
Department of Social Services
25 Sigourney Street
Hartford, CT 06106
The hearing must be held within a certain time period:
- TFA, Diversion Assistance and AABD recipients:
- Emergency housing hearings - within 3 or 4 days of receipt of your hearing request, depending on your circumstances.
- Other benefits-within 30 days of receipt of your hearing request.
- Applicants for SAGA cash assistance - within 4 working days of your hearing request.
- SAGA recipients applying for emergency assistance - within 15 days of your hearing request.
You may be able to stay at one of the shelters in or near your community. Call Infoline (2-1-1) to find a shelter near you.
If you have been ordered to leave because your apartment has been condemned, you should receive a letter telling you where to get help. If you have not received the letter, contact the agency that condemned your apartment or call Statewide Legal Services.
The help given may be different depending on where your apartment is located. Some of the help could include:
- Emergency shelter until you have permanent housing
- Help finding permanent housing such as
- help in getting a public housing apartment,
- a Section 8 or Rental Assistance Program certificate, or
- up to $4,500 to help you move and pay the rent on a new apartment if it is more expensive than the condemned one
- Moving and storage of your possessions, paid for by the city or town for as long as you are in emergency housing, and
- A security deposit to help you get a new apartment.
You may be able to get on a Connecticut Department of Social Services cash assistance program (and then you may be able to get emergency help described above). Here is a brief description of the programs:
- TFA (Temporary Family Assistance): Monthly cash benefits for families with children and pregnant women.
- Diversion Assistance: A one-time payment for families with children.
- AABD (Aid to the Aged, Blind or Disabled) also known as State Supplement: Monthly cash benefits for the aged, blind or disabled who have another income source, such as SSI.
- SAGA (State Administered General Assistance): Monthly cash benefits for individuals who are unable to work and who have no minor children at home.
- Apply at the DSS office for all of these programs. Call 2-1-1 to find your local DSS office.
Even if you are not eligible for cash assistance, you may be eligible for medical coverage. Apply at DSS.
Food and Nutrition
You may be able to get food through:
- Food stamps (now called "SNAP"). See "How to Get SNAP Benefits Quickly."
- Food pantries and soup kitchens. Call 2-1-1 to find locations.
- School breakfast and lunch programs. Apply at the school your children attend.
- WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program. Call 2-1-1 for the site near you.
- Therapeutic diet supplement for people who are on AABD (State Supplement) additional monthly cash benefit. Apply with your DSS worker; bring a note from your doctor which states you need a special diet or ask the DSS worker for a form for your doctor to complete.
You may be eligible for emergency (or "expedited") SNAP benefits. If so, you will be able to get your SNAP benefits within 7 days after you apply. However, you may have to pick them up at the DSS office.
If you are denied expedited SNAP benefits, you can ask for a fair hearing within 90 days of the date of denial. You can either ask your DSS worker for a hearing request form or write a letter asking for a hearing.
Send your letter or form to:
Office of Administrative Hearings
Department of Social Services
25 Sigourney Street
Hartford, CT 06106
At the same time you ask for a hearing, you can also ask for a "conference" with DSS and one will be scheduled within two working days. A conference may resolve any problem and quickly get you benefits.
If you have already received 21 months of TFA and you have been denied an extension of cash assistance, you may be eligible for the Safety-Net program. This program may be able to help you with emergency needs and help finding a job. Contact your DSS worker or call 2-1-1 to find out if DSS has referred you to the Safety-Net program.
Basic Needs Program.
If you have an alcohol, addiction or mental health problem and you get SAGA medical assistance, but not cash assistance, you may be eligible for help from the Basic Needs Program. This program can help pay for emergency needs.
Ask your alcohol, addiction or mental health counselor to file an application for you. If you don’t have a counselor, contact your medical assistance worker at DSS and ask for a referral to one. If you need residential treatment for your problems, this help is covered through the SAGA program. See the legal aid pamphlet, Need Help With Your Basic Living Expenses?
Security Deposit Assistance.
You may be eligible for security deposit assistance from DSS if you have limited income. This assistance is a "guarantee" for an amount equal to two months’ rent; it is not a cash payment. Apply for this assistance if you have found another apartment you can afford and:
- you have a new Section 8, RAP or T-RAP certificate (Rental Assistance Programs); or
- you live in an emergency shelter or temporary housing, including a temporary residential facility such as a hotel, motel, hospital, residential treatment facility, prison, alternative incarceration center, convalescent care center, state institution, or shelter for victims of domestic violence; or
- someone has allowed you to stay in their home temporarily when you had to move within the previous 45 days because of an eviction, catastrophic event or domestic violence; or
- you can’t stay in your apartment because of domestic violence, a child has high lead levels, a catastrophic event, you have a roommate who is being evicted or is engaged in illegal activity, your landlord has locked you out, or you are being evicted and have received a "notice to quit."
Call 2-1-1 for information on where to apply. It is available through DSS and some shelters.
You may be able to get temporary shelter in your community. Call 2-1-1.
Veterans Program - Soldiers’, Sailors’ & Marines’ Fund
If you are a veteran and were honorably discharged from the service, you and your family may be eligible for emergency assistance through the Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Marines’ Fund. Call 2-1-1 for information on where to apply.
Finding Permanent Housing
You can apply to get on the waiting lists for Public Housing (Housing Authority), Section 8, the Rental Assistance Program (RAP), and other subsidized housing programs. These programs provide you with either an affordable apartment or help paying your rent in an apartment you find. Find out which Section 8 waiting lists in Connecticut are open -- call 2-1-1 or look on the web at the United Way Housing Choice Voucher Program.
If you are already on the waiting list for these or any other housing subsidies, be sure to tell the agency where to contact you. Keep this updated. In some communities, the subsidized housing agency is also required to take applications from people who are homeless, even if their waiting list is closed.
If you have completed 21 months of TFA and now have too much money to qualify for more cash assistance, you may be eligible for the Transitionary Rental Assistance Program (T-RAP). Contact your DSS worker and ask for this help.
Note: The rules on emergency housing and other benefits change frequently. If you are homeless and have been denied emergency housing assistance or other benefits, call Statewide Legal Services.
Discounted "lifeline" phone service installation and monthly fees are available to low-income people. This will not be available if you sign up for extra features such as Caller ID. Contact the phone company -- use the phrase "lifeline phone service" to describe what you are asking about.
Training and Help Finding a Job
Anyone who receives TFA or has received a Diversion Assistance payment in the last three months can get help with training or finding a job. This help is provided by the Department of Labor (DOL) employment services program. Ask your DSS worker for a referral to DOL.
Additionally, DOL offices have job listings anyone can review. Call 2-1-1 to find the nearest DOL office. The Safety-Net program (for families who have exhausted TFA and been denied an extension) may help with locating employment services.
Child Care Assistance
If you receive TFA or Diversion Assistance and get a job or are placed in training by DOL, apply for child care assistance. This assistance is available through "Care for Kids" at 1-888-214-KIDS.
The HUSKY program (Healthcare for Uninsured Kids & Youth) provides free or affordable health insurance for children under age 19 and some parents (or other caretakers when children are not living with their parents). To find out if you or your children qualify, call toll free 1-877-284-8759. (Note: many parents and nonparent caretakers of low-income children also qualify for this insurance).
If the public school your children were attending before you became homeless refuses to allow your children to continue attending school, immediately write the local board of education and ask for a hearing. A hearing should be scheduled within 10 days. Your children have the right to continue attending their school until there is a hearing decision. You may also want to contact the State’s coordinator for education of homeless children at 860-807-2058 for assistance. Call Statewide Legal Services for advice and assistance regarding whether the school is acting in the best interests of your children.
If your children did not attend public school in Connecticut before you became homeless, the children will attend school in the district where the shelter is located. If you are homeless, your children are eligible to be enrolled in school even if you do not have proof of their immunizations.
Ask the school your children attend to enroll your children in the school lunch program for free lunches. Free breakfasts are also sometimes available.
You do not have to move your children from school to school when you are homeless. The public school your children attend should allow your children to continue attending that school and provide free transportation from your temporary residence, even if that residence is in another Connecticut town. If you think it is in your children’s best interest to attend public school where you temporarily reside, you may transfer your children there. However, do not enroll your children in a new school district until you are sure you do not want them to remain in the school they were attending before you became homeless.
This pamphlet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of CT in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.
The information in this pamphlet is based on laws in CT as of February 2010. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice for an individual situation. If you need further help and have not done so already, please call Statewide Legal Services (see above) or contact an attorney.
Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).
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