To understand the need of our homeless neighbors I believe it important to understand who makes up this population. As far as my experience at the Homeless Hospitality Center goes, there is no easy definition of homeless. Anyone you meet could be, or have been homeless at one point in their life. A 2009 report on Connecticut homelessness exemplifies this statement. It listed 299 people who had experienced homelessness in the Norwich-New London area within one year: 157 single adults, 52 families, and 90 children in these families.
Of that number:
“20% of single adults served in the military.
15% of single adults and 39% of adults in families were currently working.
62% of sheltered single adults and sheltered adults in families had a 12th grade education or higher.
39% of single adults had been in a hospital, detox or rehab for substance use.
42% of sheltered single adults reported suffering from a health condition that limits their ability to work, get around, and care for themselves.
33% of sheltered single adults and sheltered adults in families and 100% of unsheltered single adults and unsheltered adults in families found on the night of the count were Chronically Homeless.”
A minority of homeless individuals can be considered chronically homeless, that is, those who have been homeless for a year or more, or who have experienced four or more episodes of homelessness in the past three years. These are often people with disabilities such as alcoholism, substance abuse disorders, mental illness, or HIV/AIDS.  To even be considered chronically homeless, a person must have slept in an emergency shelter or in a place unfit for human habitation.
Nationally this population constitutes only 10 percent of the homeless population but use 50 percent of the resources for homeless services and other costs like health-care in a crisis or incarceration. While this population is only 10 percent nationally, it is significantly higher in southeastern CT: from 35-40 percent of the population. These figures mean that the costs in southeastern CT, Norwich and New London included, are much higher per homeless individual.
A second minority of homeless individuals, approximately 10 percent, are designated episodic homeless. These individuals, often younger, are frequent users of the shelter and other homeless services and are at risk of becoming chronically homeless. Often a problem associated with these individuals is substance abuse, though a mental or learning disorder can be a cause of homelessness for them as well.
A significant proportion of the homeless, roughly 80 percent nationally but only around fifty percent here in Southeastern CT, are the transitional homeless; that is those who are experiencing a temporary difficulty that can be overcome. A sudden crisis such as job loss, housing loss, or a family or personal health care emergency is associated with this population.
What can I say about the homeless population? There is little to generalize this group. Persons from all backgrounds can become homeless, and when homeless, there is little one can do to get out of this problem alone. People can screw up as a child in high school, suffer from a mental or learning problem, suffer from addiction, or, as in the majority of cases, simply have had a series of small or large catastrophes that led to homelessness. Often there is something that can be done to help them out of homelessness. And often, we as a community spend less by helping than standing by. Finally, they are our neighbors, people like us, who need a little help.
 Source: Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. “Appendix K: Norwich-New London Data,” in Connecticut Counts 2009 Point-In-Time Homeless Count Final Report Published Aug, 2009: 178. www.cceh.org/pdf/count/connecticut_counts_2009_final.pdf. Accessed Oct. 22, 2010.
 Ibid, 178.
 Source: Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness. Southeastern Connecticut Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. p. 6.
 Ibid 6.
 Ibid 6.
 Ibid 6.