I recently had the pleasure and honor of joining Commissioner Mosquera-Bruno and staff at the CT Department of Housing for the Hartford Marathon Relay Team to help raise funds for homeless services as part of the United Way of Central and Northeastern CT’s Run United drive. In my view, the marathon relay is a perfect way to experience a marathon—you only have to run 6.1 miles and can still say that you did a marathon! I jest, but in seriousness, there is something special about being part of a team and about being able to play a small part in achieving a larger goal.
A marathon relay is a lot like the work of ending homelessness. As our coalition members, each of you plays a critical role in our work to end homelessness—conducting outreach, operating homeless shelters, helping households to resolve their homelessness, providing rapid re-housing or supportive housing, providing or raising funds, improving policies, managing or using data, helping educate the general public, and more—but no single one of our roles is enough to end homelessness. It takes all of us—working together as a coordinated system—to achieve that larger and longer goal. Like in a marathon relay, we focus on running our respective sections as best we can and also on cheering on our teammates as they run their sections.
This month, I was happy to cheer on Opening Doors Fairfield County as they received a $3.5 million grant award from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for a Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). Not only does this grant award add to our state’s resources to end youth homelessness—bringing our state’s total YHDP award to $10 million—but it also gives us the tools to build out a statewide system to end youth homelessness. In other words, new and additional money is always great, but what really excites me is how Connecticut is creating a comprehensive system to a) identify all youth experiencing homelessness and housing instability, b) connect them to housing as quickly as possible with the supports and services they need, and c) ensure that the youth we assist are well-positioned to succeed in all aspects of their lives. That comprehensive system encompasses schools, libraries, and child welfare systems working to help identify youth in housing crisis; shelter diversion, rapid exit, rapid re-housing, and supportive housing options for youth; juvenile justice systems working to reduce justice-involvement; and the Coordinated Access Networks/Youth Engagement Team Initiatives to make the sum of the parts into a larger whole.
While the Hartford Marathon is over, the work of ending homelessness still lies ahead of us. Those of us on staff here at CCEH are continuing to run our sections in this run as well and as fast as we can, while also cheering on each of you as you play your critical roles. We are ever and always proud to be your teammates and look forward to the day when we can celebrate with you at the finish line!