On June 11, 2014, Stamford Mayor David Martin and the Stamford-Greenwich Opening Doors Alliance to End Homelessness held a Community Brief Back Breakfast event to present the results of Stamford’s VI-SPDAT Registry Week, a grassroots street and shelter outreach campaign charged with the goal of putting a face, a name, and a story to everyone experiencing homelessness. In addition to celebrating that the Stamford community now has the data needed to prioritize each homeless person with the appropriate level of care for their housing needs, the event was momentous in distinguishing that the three Fairfield County CoC’s (greater Bridgeport, greater Norwalk and Stamford-Greenwich) have each participated in such a campaign and that a registry of those experiencing housing instability now exists for the entire southwestern Connecticut region.
The event, which assembled housing, service and mental health providers, representatives from local government, Stamford hospital and the housing authority, was an opportunity to share the information needed to create a paradigm shift in directing focus on those most in need with the most intensive, long term services, and to pinpoint the minimum resources necessary to permanently end each household’s homelessness.
Following an address given by the mayor, event speakers Rafael Pagan and Jason Shaplen gave passionate pleas to the audience to work together to find solutions to support those identified by the registry. A discussion was facilitated by Sen. Carlo Leone with panel members Samantha Stewart (Supportive Housing Works) who presented the data related to the registry campaign, and Donna Spellman (Family Centers) Natalie Coard (Charter Oak), and Ross Burkhardt (New Neighborhoods Inc.) who all presented agency updates related to supports in place for those challenged by housing and economic instability.
Rafael Pagan, Executive Director of the Shelter for the Homeless, discussed the challenges faced by shelter residents who “go out to work each day but consistently find that securing permanent housing in the region is out of reach, due to the high cost of housing in the Stamford area.” Jason Shaplen, CEO of Inspirica, made a plea to key attendees to reconvene, and representatives from Charter Oak Communities, New Neighborhoods Inc., Family Centers, Stamford Hospital, Inspirica, Shelter for the Homeless, and Supportive Housing Works agreed to reassemble soon to set concrete steps in identifying housing opportunities for folks identified through the registry, and to discuss possibilities for prioritizing wait lists based on vulnerability index results moving forward.
As expressed by Jason Shaplen, “The news in Stamford is that the number of people who need PSH is relatively low—it’s firmly within reach for us to house these people if we make a concerted commitment to do so—I ask that each of us investigate whether we have the units that can be made available to the people who really need housing in our community.”
Mayor Harry W. Rilling and the Greater Norwalk Opening Doors (GNOD) Housing Workgroup, hosted a “Landlord and Service Provider Networking Breakfast” on May 29, 2014 at the Norwalk City Hall Community Room. The event, an opportunity for landlords and service providers to come together to share resources and strategies about increased housing opportunities for residents of the greater Norwalk area, was planned to present information on improved access to safe, affordable housing and the supports needed for housing stability. The goal of the event was to start a positive interchange between landlords, developers and service providers around the topics of Permanent Supportive Housing, Housing Choice Vouchers and other effective practices which are in place to assist those with a history of challenges related to homelessness and housing insecurity.
Attendees were welcomed by GNOD Co-Chairs Barbara Butler, Executive Director of the Department of Human Services for the town of Westport and David Rich, the Executive Director of Supportive Housing Works. In addition to giving the audience an overview of GNOD, both discussed the importance of collaboration in solving systemic issues such as homelessness, and they shared some of the challenges faced by the homeless, including how the lack of affordable housing plays a role in further challenging those living in poverty in the greater Norwalk region.
The event was facilitated by Audrey Sparre, COO and Vice President of Homes with Hope of Westport, Chair of the GNOD Housing Workgroup. Audrey discussed the part the community plays in assisting individuals and families who experience homelessness to obtain safe housing, improved economic security and an enhanced quality of life. Audrey introduced several speakers including Ed Gormbley, a local landlord who regularly accepts rent vouchers and works with tenants who present with issues that require permanent supportive housing, as long as the tenant is connected to services as needed. The audience also heard from a person who shared her own personal journey of how she was able to transition out of homelessness with the support of a committed case manager and the sanctuary of a housing voucher of her own.
On the topic of housing vouchers, Adam Bovilsky, Director of the Human Relations and Fair Rent Department for the City of Norwalk, presented information on how accepting vouchers can benefit landlords. For instance, background and credit checks are conducted on each resident through the Housing Authority application process, and property owners can expect stable rent income via the Section 8 – Housing Choice Voucher Program. Adam also informed attendees on how vouchers support those in need by providing safe, quality housing for both individuals and families and how such programs often offer solutions on the prevalence of poverty by encouraging the private marketplace to engage with the economically challenged.
Attendees at the event included Senators Bob Duff and Carlo Leone, service and housing providers from the Fairfield County region, representatives from the Norwalk Housing Authority and private landlords, realtors and non-profit developers. A constructive dialogue ensued following the presentations, and feedback after the event matched the goals of the GNOD Housing Committee which was to increase awareness on services for those in need of supportive housing, and to broaden opportunities for those whose challenges have hindered them in the past from securing community housing. Several of those in attendance reported that they would consider renting to those with challenges in the future if such a network of support is offered to insure that when a crisis occurs, those who deliver support will be able to de-escalate crises which may otherwise end in evictions. Considering such feedback, the breakfast was a success!
CCEH's Children in Shelters Childcare Assistance Fund is available to help support homeless families with childcare and summer camp costs. Children in Shelters is open to families living in emergency shelters (including domestic violence shelters) or enrolled in the CT Rapid Rehousing Program. It may pay for childcare fees at a licensed facility or licensed individual provider for a child under the age of 6 and their eligible siblings, as well as transportation needs, such as bus passes or gas cards. The fund may also cover costs of summer camp for both children under 6 and their eligible siblings up to the age of 12. Children in Shelter provides up to eight weeks of assistance to each family. For detailed information on eligibility, guidelines, application, program agreements, etc, please see the Children in Shelters page on CCEH's website.
CCEH urges you to take advantage of this valuable resource for the homeless families you support! Please plan now for summer camp and summer childcare costs - CCEH is accepting applications for new families in the program.
Questions related to the program may be directed to Katie Kenney, Project Assistant, at email@example.com or 860-721-7876, ext. 101. Please feel free to forward this information to any shelter or CT RRP staff in your organization who may be able to refer families.
Dear McKinney Advocates,
As you all are probably aware, the House Subcommittee on HUD funding released FY 2015 legislation that would flat fund HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. Flat funding at $2.105 billion ($300 million less than the amount requested by the Administration for FY 2015) would result in across-the-board cuts to many CoCs, similar to those experienced following sequestration cuts in the FY 2013 NOFA.
The full House Appropriations Committee will be marking up and voting on legislation TOMORROW for FY 2015 HUD funding. In addition, the Senate will be moving forward with its own funding bills soon after they return from the Memorial Day recess next week. It is imperative that we make sure as many senators and representatives understand the need for increased McKinney funding in FY 2015.We have made good progress in recent years, despite setbacks and lack of resources for new projects; however, we must now begin to take significant steps forward, particularly in our efforts to end chronic homelessness. We know what works to end homelessness, and, for the most part, we have the tools to do so at our disposal. We just need the resources - and Congress must provide them!
Here’s What You Can Do:
1. Call or email your senators and representatives TODAY, particularly if they sit on the House Appropriations or Senate Appropriations Committees.
a. Ask to speak to the person who handles housing issues. The Alliance can help you figure out who that is, or you can call the congressional switchboard at 202.224.3121.
2. Tell the staff person we need MORE MONEY FOR MCKINNEY in the FY 2015 funding legislation.
a. Have them urge their boss to work with his or her colleagues on the Appropriations Committees to ensure that HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants receive a $300 million increase in FY 2015.
b. You can use the talking points and this blog to help you make your case.
3. Let us know who you contacted and what they said!
Earlier this spring, we were able to generate a tremendous amount of advocacy efforts around McKinney and HUD funding. Now, particularly as Congress works to write and vote on funding legislation, we need to keep up that momentum!Make calls, send emails, and write letters THIS WEEK to ensure that the earliest iterations of these funding bills have the best possible funding level for McKinney programs.
As always, let me know if you have any questions about any congressional activity or your advocacy efforts. I look forward to hearing from many of you on this issue!
Catherine (Kate) Seif
Policy Outreach Coordinator
National Alliance to End Homelessness
Hartford (May 8, 2014) — The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness on Thursday presented its yearly awards during its Annual Training Institute and meeting.
Preston Maynard, LCSW; Director, Homeless Program for VA Connecticut Healthcare System based in West Haven, received the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness Social Justice Award.
The Rev. Cathy Zall, Executive Director of New London Homeless Hospitality Center, received the individual Carol E. Walter Think, Be, Lead Change Award.
The Bridgeport Housing First Collaborative Team received the agency Carol E. Walter Think, Be, Lead Change Award.
The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness Social Justice Award
Recognizes a leader who embraces or champions new practices, embodies a spirit of collaboration, and takes risks and innovative approaches while developing solutions to complex social issues. This award is presented to a leader, policy maker or agency who tirelessly pursues and promotes solutions to an issue, working with a variety of stakeholders to accomplish this goal.
This year’s award goes to Preston Maynard, LCSW; Director, Homeless Program for VA Connecticut Healthcare System based in West Haven, CT. “Recognizing your deep commitment and unceasing efforts to end the homelessness of Connecticut veterans.”
Mr. Maynard is the Director, Homeless Program for VA Connecticut Healthcare System based in West Haven, CT. Since 2007, Mr. Maynard has worked diligently to expand housing opportunities for Veterans across Connecticut by engaging service providers, housing organizations, and veteran and civic organizations in the cause of ending Veteran homelessness. He oversees the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans program, a program of outreach and engagement of the chronic homeless and linking these Veterans to a broad continuum of housing services. The VA Homeless Team engaged more than 1,050 Veterans in 2013. During the last five years, the VA CT Homeless Program has housed more than 560 Veterans with HUD-VASH vouchers and partnered with local communities to create more than 200 units of permanent supported housing with a Veteran preference, including the nationally recognized Victory Gardens in Newington. Under his tenure, VA CT has built strong community partnerships in rural and urban areas and carried forward the mission of the Secretary Shinseki, to End Veteran Homelessness within five years. He serves on the Coordinating committee of the Partnership for Strong Communities, an ad hoc member of the Supportive Housing Works board of Directors, and an advisor emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Carol E. Walter Think, Be, Lead Change Award
Recognizes outstanding achievement in the field of homeless or housing services. This person or agency brings forward the spirit of Carol Walter in all that they do in the field, taking a pragmatic approach to prevent and end homelessness. This award is presented to someone in the housing/homeless field who never loses sight of the end goal of ending homelessness, driving this mission from within his/her agency or coalition work.
This year’s individual award recipient is Catherine Zall, Executive Director of New London Homeless Hospitality Center. “Recognizing your tireless efforts to innovate and find new solutions to end homelessness”
Catherine Zall currently serves as the Executive Director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, which operates an emergency shelter, a daytime drop-in center, a variety of supportive housing programs and a thrift store called Homeward Bound Treasures. She also serves as Pastor of the First Congregational Church in New London. Before beginning her work in New London, she served in a variety of social service management positions including almost ten years working as the Deputy Commissioner managing New York City’s welfare to work program. Ms. Zall has an undergraduate degree from Brown University, a Masters of Business Administration degree from the Stern School of Business at New York University and a Master of Divinity degree from the Yale Divinity School. She has two grown children and lives in New London.
The Carol E. Walter Think, Be, Lead Change Award
This year’s agency award goes to Bridgeport Housing First Collaborative Team.
The Bridgeport Housing First collaborative was established in 2010 as a collective impact initiative with participation from five non-profit organizations (Alpha Community Services YMCA, Housing Authority of the City of Bridgeport, New Haven Home Recovery Operation Hope, and Supportive Housing Works), all with extensive homeless and housing experience. The BHFC model is an innovative approach to ending homelessness through the coordinated delivery of health, mental health, social services and affordable housing resources to homeless individuals and families.
This team has brought together the resources of five different agencies – working together as a team. This collaboration – breaking down silos, reducing duplication of effort, and combining resources to serve more of those in urgent need, and to serve them more effectively – has made this team a national leader in advancing the goal of ending chronic homelessness.
For more than 25 years, Operation Hope of Fairfield, Inc. has been working to end hunger and homelessness in Fairfield and the greater Bridgeport area through comprehensive programs for men, women and families. The diverse assortment of programming offered by Operation Hope includes shelter services, two meals daily available to anyone in need in the community, and a food pantry that distributes basic staple items for those struggling to make ends meet. In addition to delivering high quality frontline crisis intervention services to the community, Operation Hope also owns or operates over 46 units of safe, affordable, supportive housing and is recognized as a local leader on regional initiatives such as Rapid Rehousing and the Bridgeport Housing First Collaborative. Staff provide critical services to stabilize the lives of the residents, which include clinical support and skill building counseling to increase the capacity for independent living. The talented staff and countless volunteers at Operation Hope are witness that when people come together, the product is a collective force that supports those who need an opportunity for change.
Supportive House Works
Supportive Housing Works (SHW) was created by four nonprofit supportive housing providers who identified the need in Fairfield County for a new type of entity that could represent their collective interests in creating more permanent housing for the chronic homeless. The original founding members of SHW were Central Connecticut YMCA, the Interfaith Housing Association now known as Homes for Hope in Westport, Operation Hope of Fairfield, and St. Luke’s LifeWorks now known as Inspirica in Stamford. Each of the founding members recognized that their agency did not have the capacity to develop housing individually. Their premise in creating a separate membership organization was that they could each benefit from having a relationship with an entity that could work on their behalf to create permanent supportive housing units. The members agreed that the new entity would:
- Anticipate and meet the permanent supportive housing needs of the chronic homeless in Coastal Fairfield County
- Facilitate and enable the funding, development, and management of permanent supportive housing units and the infrastructure and talent necessary to fill the gap between needs and resources;
- Support state and country-wide efforts to address the needs of the chronic homeless population
- Provide people in need the stability and opportunity to regain their confidence, rebuild their lives, and achieve independence.
Currently, SHW has nine member agencies with the addition of two more Stamford based agencies, Laurel House and Shelter for the Homeless as well as Open Door Shelter in Norwalk and Catholic Charities of Fairfield County. The addition of New Haven Home Recovery in 2009 marked SHW’s expansion in the New Haven area.
Currently, SHW is launching a collective impact model called the I95 Alliance that will result in a 50% decrease in homelessness in Fairfield County by 2015. This model involves key sectors including education, health, employment and philanthropy to become part of a re-design in the homeless crisis response system. Part of this initiative is the creation of 500 additional supportive housing units. To accomplish that goal, SHW hired a Director of Housing Development in 2013.
New Haven Home Recovery
New Haven Home Recovery, Inc. (NHHR) is a nonprofit organization working to shelter, house, furnish and stabilize women and families in the Greater New Haven and Bridgeport areas of Connecticut. Since 1990, NHHR has worked to further its mission to promote the independence of women and children confronting homelessness, HIV/AIDS, and behavioral health issues in a supportive environment where their potential can be realized. NHHR serves over 1,800 men, women and children each year. NHHR operates three emergency homeless shelters for women and children, over 100 units of supportive housing for families, five family stabilization programs and a regional furniture bank. For the past 24 years, NHHR has expanded its programs to continue to successfully meet the needs of families in the community. We reach out to help others who need help. We are building hopeful futures.
Alpha Community Services YMCA
Alpha Community Services YMCA, a branch of the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA, address the basic human needs for shelter, dignity and self-sufficiency by providing a range of housing opportunities and supportive services. Alpha Community Services YMCA operates the only Family Emergency Shelter in Bridgeport, the largest in the state. In 2013 we housed 173 families in our shelter, including 338 children. Additionally, we were home to over 600 people in our permanent supportive housing sites in Bridgeport and New Haven.
At Alpha Community Services YMCA, strengthening communities is our cause. Every day we work side by side with our neighbors in the communities we serve to make sure everyone- regardless of age, income or background- has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Our community has come to rely on us for affordable housing coupled with comprehensive supportive services. We are more than just a place to sleep. We provide a sense of community, hope and a safe place to belong for a growing population of homeless men, women and children.
Bridgeport Housing Authority
The Housing Authority of the City of Bridgeport is committed to the well-being of residents, and to serving as a regional leader in developing and maintaining affordable housing.