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The Partnership Announces the 2020 Reaching Home Celebration Awardees

June 12, 2020

by Carline Charmelus
Project Manager for the Reaching Home Campaign,
Partnership for Strong Communities

In the midst of a global pandemic, the Reaching Home Campaign has remained steadfast in our advocacy, collaboration, and coordination effort to ensure that our most vulnerable populations have a safe and stable place to live. Over the past eight years, the Campaign has recognized several incredible individuals and groups that have gone above and beyond in the efforts to prevent and end homelessness. It is my pleasure to announce the 2020 Reaching Home Celebration’s awardees.

This year, we recognize Dan Shetler, Manager of Quality Assurance at Connecticut Mental Health Center for the Diane Randall Leadership Award. This award recognizes an individual or group who demonstrates exemplary leadership in the public or private sector by promoting systems change, policies, and funding that create solutions to prevent and end homelessness. Dan has been a true visionary and pioneer in the development of the homelessness response system and project performance dashboards at, which has led to unprecedented data transparency and accessibility. His ongoing leadership in creating a vision for how we use data has been instrumental in our effort to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief, and a one-time experience in Connecticut.

Advocacy is a central part of the work to prevent and end homelessness in Connecticut. As such, Sarah Fox, Director of Advocacy and Community Impact at the CT Coalition to End Homelessness, exemplifies the values of the Reverend Richard Schuster Advocacy Award for her ongoing commitment to raising awareness about the needs of individuals, families, and youth who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming so. She has dedicated over 11 years of her life to advocate for critical housing resources. Sarah, herself, was homeless when she was a child and she uses that expertise and her training as a social worker to build strong relationships with stakeholders, remind us of the stark reality of homelessness, and emphasize the importance of empowering those with lived experience in this work.

Housing transforms lives and gives individuals the opportunity and resources needed to thrive. Ronald Buxton has been recognized for the Carol Walter Housing Tenant Awards. This award recognizes two housing tenants who show commitment to advocacy for permanent housing solutions, exhibit exemplary leadership skills, and actively work to make their community a better place.

Ronald Buxton, Residential Coordinator at South Park Inn in Hartford and Veterans Inc., was a homeless veteran of 13 years and a victim of identity theft. He was sleeping on streets, under bridges, and doubling up with others. At South Park Inn, under the guidance of Janette Aquido, he was connected with the Veterans Affairs for housing support services and was able to secure a HUD-VASH. Over the past 15 years, Ronald has been working to provide essential support services to veterans and civilians.  At the Inn, he ran the Veterans Drop-in Center where he helped to counsel many individuals about housing, employment, and food resources - and even saved the life of a veteran in crisis. He now works at Veterans Inc. in New Britain, where he supervises 18 veterans and ensures that each passes their room inspection, drug and alcohol tests, and maintains good hygiene. His dedication and hard work have made the VA facility as a showcase for all other VA facilities in the state.  Lastly, if you are a veteran and you are interested in learning to fish, Ronald has you covered. He runs a Take a Vet Fishing Program in his free time.

Lastly, we are honored to award the Barbara Geller Lifetime Achievement Award to Richard J. Porth, President and CEO at the United Way of Connecticut. This award recognizes an individual who has worked tirelessly throughout their lifetime or career to help people experiencing homelessness to find housing and support, reconnect with family and friends, and reach their full potential. Rick’s first volunteer experience was working night shift at a youth shelter, which propelled his future work around addressing anti-poverty and systemic issues and ensuring that individuals and households in need can get connected to necessary services. Throughout his 12-year tenure at the United Way of Connecticut/2-1-1, he has been a tireless advocate for strengthening and expanding the network of services and partnerships that comprise the social safety net in our state. His leadership has been integral to the successful creation of a statewide coordinated entry system that resolves housing crises. Moreover, as Executive Director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments, he worked with mayors and first selectmen of the Hartford region and the cities and towns they represent. He collaborated with business, civic, and government leaders to advocate and implement regional solutions to local challenges. An area of particular focus for Rick was promoting better access to opportunities for people living in low-income neighborhoods. He is a graduate of Yale University and holds an MPA from Pennsylvania State University. 

We are grateful to all our awardees and partners who are working tirelessly to fight housing injustice and ensure that everyone in our state has a safe and stable place to call home. As we wrap up this week of honoring our Heroes of Housing and Homelessness, we want to say THANK YOU! The daily work that you do changes lives and transforms systems and communities. We can’t wait to celebrate with you all in-person once the coronavirus has been mitigated. Please look out over the next couple of months for information regarding the Reaching Home Celebration.

Once again, congratulations to the 2020 Reaching Home Celebration awardees!

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