While 501c3 nonprofits cannot support or oppose a candidate or party, they do have a critical role in the election season. The two most important roles are:
Educating candidates about the critical work your organization does in the communities the candidates represent; and
Encouraging all your organization's constituents to vote - your staff, volunteers, customers, clients, and all other stakeholders.
Finally, data from a 2012 Nonprofit VOTE study makes the case for nonprofit engagement by explaining that voters contacted by nonprofits had a higher turnout rate than the average for all registered voters, and nonprofits were especially effective at increasing turnout among those who are traditionally underrepresented in elections.
The Connecticut Nonprofit Human Services Cabinet (not to be confused with the Governor's Cabinet on Nonprofit Health and Human Services) and SOTS Denise Merrill publicly launched a voter engagement and education initiative designed to reach the 500,000 clients served through homeless shelters, childcare centers, and other nonprofit providers.
Download this 2014 Voter Registration Toolkit.
Voter registration FAQs from Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.
A letter from David E. McCarthy, Senior Housing Specialist, Columbus House, Inc.:
As a housing liaison, I am the first line of contact post the VI-SPDAT. When I made the initial phone call to my client, she answered the phone in tears. She explained to me that her life was at rock bottom. She said that she was staying in a shelter and trying to get her life together, but was having a difficult time making any progress. She said that she was losing hope of ever having her own home again. I told her that I was here to help. I explained a bit about the 100-Day campaign and that with the correct documents there is a large potential that we will be able to offer her housing.
She explained to me that she has not been able to live with her daughter for quite some time. She has been struggling financially as a part-time waitress for many years and craving stability so that she can have her daughter back in her life. I explained to her that time was of the essence, and that she needed to gather X-Y-Z documents. Dwelling in a New Haven shelter but born in Greenwich, she said getting her birth certificate would take some time. I offered transportation, but she explained to me that she had work for the next few days and wouldn’t be able to make the trip anytime soon.
She said she would give me call in a few days and we would set up a date and time for me to take her.
Reaching out to her two days later, I was ecstatic to learn that she was on a train to Greenwich, “I am going to get my birth certificate,” she said. When asking about her other documents, she informed me that she had a plan and would have them for me soon. A few days later I received a phone call. “I have all my documents,” she said joyfully. “Do you think this is going to work, will I get an apartment?” I clarified that I cannot guarantee anything, however I reinforced optimism reiterating that the campaign was 100 people in 100 days, and the sooner we get your documents the better. “I hope this works” she said. “I really need this; it’s been so long since I have had a place to live.” Hope was alive again.
Approximately two weeks to date from my initial outreach, I was overjoyed to inform my client that she had been matched to PSH. “I know you can’t tell over the phone but tears are pouring down my face right now.” “I can’t believe this is happening,” she said over and over.
From initial outreach to housing matched in about two weeks, it was a breathtaking experience to watch my client move swiftly through the newly constructed coordinated access system. As Albert Einstein said, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
In a community with many organizations sharing a common goal of ending homelessness, Ifeel we owe it to the community to work together, in unison. I firmly believe that a communities’ potential can only be fully realized when it works together, and my client stands testament to that.
Thank you all to the 100-Day team for contributing your part in making my clients dream a reality, reinstalling hope in our clients, and revitalizing our objective of ending homelessness in New Haven.
David E. McCarthy
Senior Housing Specialist
Columbus House Inc.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.