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Affordable Housing , Community Development , Homelessness , Housing Policy Briefs , State News , Supportive Housing

Annual Reaching Home Dinner Honors Housing Heroes

31 May 2017
Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC)

Stephanie Berman, Executive Assistant, Partnership for Strong Communities and Phyllis Hyman, Administrative and Policy Associate, Partnership for Strong Communities

Working on preparations for the Partnership’s 12th Annual Reaching Home Celebration Dinner & Housing Awards has provided both of us with an opportunity to learn more about the nation-leading progress in Connecticut to maintain an end to Veteran homelessness while working tirelessly to end chronic homeless and serve the needs of youth and families, as well as any others experiencing the devastating upheaval of being without a home.

This incredible work could not have been achieved without the dedication of the many people across the state who have worked tirelessly towards this goal. At this year’s Dinner, we’ll honor the incredible achievements of individuals who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to end homelessness in CT.

The Diane Randall Leadership Awards

Leaders within ODFC and on the forefront of ending homelessness in Fairfield County

Kathy Hunter of Supportive Housing Works, Carla Miklos of Operation Hope, and Carmen Colon of Alpha Community Services-The Y are recognized for their notable leadership and tireless efforts in addressing and raising awareness to eliminate homelessness in Fairfield County. From creating the first Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness for greater Bridgeport, to chairing the Bridgeport Continuum of Care and spearheading countless initiatives over the past 20 years, the three have been both team members and team leaders who naturally cultivate real collaboration, and through that collaboration, they have helped to create true collective gain for the community and for the clients they serve.

The Rev. Schuster Advocacy Award

Paula Crombie, Yale New Haven Hospital

Paula Crombie received four separate nominations for this award, speaking to the incredible impact her work in the healthcare field has had on ending homelessness. Paula spearheaded the development ofthe Yale New Haven Hospital/Columbus House Medical Respite Program, which provides a safe, consistent environment in which to recover from a hospital stay and connects the patients with case managers who help them find adequate housing. Over a three-year period, the data for this population show that  lengths of stay at the hospital and the number of readmissions and emergency room visits have been reduced.

The Carol Walter Supportive Housing Tenant Award

Willie Thomas Miller Jr. and Natalie Garcia

Willie Thomas Miller had a rough start to his life, which led to incarcerations and trips to rehab. Willie called 211 and got an appointment with DMHAS’ Homeless Outreach Team, which did his CAN assessment. From there, he went to the Operation Hope Shelter, where he stayed until entering permanent supportive housing at The Connection’s Milestone Program. With a place to call home, he has worked to change his life by getting and staying clean, volunteering for Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, and advocating for continued funding for the programs that he knows, first-hand, make such a difference in peoples’ lives.

At only 25, Natalie Garcia is committed to helping others who are going through hard times. When Natalie was young, she was rejected by her family because of her gender identity and knew she needed to get away, even though it meant being homeless for a time. She eventually got involved in the Connection’s Start Program. Thanks to the support from that program, Natalie is now a research coordinator at the Institute for Community Research’s Youth Action Hub. Natalie is a part of the statewide Youth and Young Adult Homelessness Workgroup and many of its subgroups, and advocates passionately for increasing and improving resources for young people who are struggling with housing instability.

Barbara Geller Career Achievement Award

Alison Cunningham, Columbus House

Alison Cunningham is widely recognized as one of the most astute and passionate advocates for homeless people and their needs. Her first job was at Janus House, a shelter for runaway homeless youth in Bridgeport. After two years there, she went to work as a case manager for Columbus House in New Haven. Deeply moved by the poverty and disenfranchisement she observed, she found it to be incredibly rewarding to watch the transition from homelessness to being housed. In 1998, Alison was asked to become Columbus House’s Interim Director, and the rest is history. Under her dynamic leadership, Columbus House has grown to include shelter and permanent supportive housing services and has partnered with Yale New Haven Hospital to provide respite care for newly-discharged hospital patients who were unstably housed. Alison handles the multiple roles required to run her complex agency with calm competence, humor, intelligence and unparalleled poise and grace.

We hope you’ll join us on Thursday, June 15 at the Reaching Home Dinner to learn more about our awardees’ great accomplishments and to celebrate the collaborative successes of Connecticut’s housing advocates, leaders, and organizations. Click here to purchase tickets or make a donation so that clients, tenants, and others with fewer resources can attend and join the celebration.

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