In 1984 I co-chaired Governor William A. O’Neill’s Task Force to End Homelessness. At the time there were hundreds of families living in motels as a result of an extreme lack of safe, affordable housing. In part, motivated by what he saw happening to thousands of families in Connecticut, Governor O’Neill declared in a speech before the Connecticut General Assembly that “housing should be viewed as a basic human right”. It was a time of disinvestment in affordable housing and deinstitutionalization of mental health facilities without building the necessary community support system.
In Connecticut over the past decade we have been fortunate that both Republican and Democratic administrations have viewed supportive housing as a sound investment and a very real way to end homelessness. But today we are at a crossroads and we need to take our work to a whole new level. That is why Connecticut has been an early adopter of the Obama Administration framework to end homelessness called Opening Doors. In January 2012, we kicked off this new campaign dedicated to breaking down silos that have too long prevented our ability to make the kind of systemic changes that can turn the corner on our efforts to finally end homelessness.
Undeniably resources are important, and Governor Malloy has become a true partner and champion of our efforts, but it is also about doing our work smarter, more efficiently and effectively and really listening to those who have struggled with homelessness about how to do this work better. Opening Doors – CT is our blueprint, our guiding principles and our organizing framework for finishing the job. It will require new levels of cooperation, coordination and courage. But I am convinced that it can and will be done. When we first convened a new steering committee in January 2012, the energy, enthusiasm and commitment in the room that day was palpable. Our pledge to ourselves must be to not lose that sense of urgency and possibility. We must challenge ourselves to do more, to do better; all imbued with a spirit of finishing this work once and for all.
The Partnership’s annual Reaching Home Dinner begins with a reception at 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, at Cromwell Crowne Plaza.
Howard Rifkin is the Executive Director of the Partnership for Strong Communities.
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