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Homelessness , Supportive Housing

Going Big to Create Homes

3 June 2014

Leigh Shields-Church, LCSW, Director of New Haven Shelter Plus Care

In the past month, I have learned something vitally important about my colleagues in New Haven—they are exceptionally competitive.  Only those with the most competitive spirit would take on the challenge of creating a coordinated access system to move people from homelessness to housing in just a short 100 days.  Because they are true competitors, not only did we collectively decide to restructure the way homeless families and individuals move through the homeless service system, we also agreed to house 75% (107) of New Haven’s chronically homeless individuals by July 30.

To kick it all off, we also decided to sponsor 100,000 Homes Registry Week with the goal of assessing 500 of Greater New Haven’s homeless over the 100 days.  Inspired by Linda Kaufman’s 1 day-Boot Camp, the New Haven Registry Week planners cut the planning process from 8 weeks to 4 weeks.  Thanks to the awesome efforts of 182 dedicated volunteers, New Haven assessed 556 homeless individuals and families in just 3 days.   What a fabulous way to get things started.  Los Angeles, Memphis, and New Orleans have made monumental progress in reducing the number of chronically homeless—and now, it is New Haven’s turn.  Needless to say, the past days have been a whirl wind.

In the 10 years that I have worked in permanent supportive housing, I have never experienced the palpable enthusiasm, optimism, and energy that community providers have been exuding during the first weeks of the 100 Day Challenge to End Chronic Homelessness in New Haven.  The Rapid Results Institute has been instrumental in fostering the sense of urgency and identifying the homeless community’s highest priority.  Greater New Haven has embraced this challenge and collaborations between the region’s six emergency shelters: Beth-El Shelter, Christian Community Action, Columbus House, Emergency Shelter Management Services, New Haven Home Recovery (Life Haven, Careways, Martha’s Place), Spooner House; the Housing Authority of New Haven; BHCare; Yale New Haven Hospital; Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center; Veteran’s Affairs;  United Way of Greater New Haven; CT Mental Health Center; City of New Haven, numerous community providers, and the list continues to grow.

It is a privilege to be part of the most dedicated and enthusiastic team that I have ever known.  Descriptors such as synergy, collaboration, collegial respect only begin to describe the unfolding process. Whether talking about the 100 Day Challenge or broadly talking about ending homelessness, no one person, one agency, one program, one department, or one community organization is going to solve this problem alone.  It will take collective effort, and the continued collaboration of multiple systems to create one coordinated system.

None of these efforts would be possible without the support of our Leadership Team:

  • Sheila Allen Bell, Housing Authority of New Haven
  • John Bradley, Liberty Community Services
  • Amy Casavina Hall, United Way of Greater New Haven
  • Paula Crombie, Yale New Haven Hospital
  • Alison Cunningham, Columbus House
  • Debbie Deegan, Veteran’s Affairs
  • Steve DiLella, CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
  • Reverend Bonita Grubbs, Christian Community Action
  • Karin Motta, CT Department of Housing
  • Suzanne Piacentini, Dept. of Housing & Urban Development, CT
  • Tomas Reyes, City of New Haven
  • Leigh Shields-Church, New Haven Shelter Plus Care
  • Lisa Tepper-Bates, CT Coalition to End Homelessness

On Behalf of the 100 Day Team:

  •             Patrice Boyce, Veteran’s Affairs
  •             Carmen Brown, New Haven Home Recovery
  •             Veronica Cruz, Columbus House
  •             Deborah DeJarnette, The Connection, Inc.
  •             Sarah Fox, CT Coalition to End Homelessness
  •             Raven Hodge, Continuum of Care
  •             Juakia Inabinet, Liberty Community Services
  •             Harold Ince, Housing Authority of the City of New Haven
  •             JR Logan, United Way of Greater New Haven
  •             Jennifer Nulty, Columbus House
  •             Evelise Ribeiro, Housing Authority of the City of New Haven
  •             Erin Scionti, Intern, CT Coalition to End Homelessness
  •             Heidi Sorensen, Yale New Haven Hospital
  •             Leigh Shields-Church, CT Mental Health Center
  •             John Thomas, Emergency Shelter Management Services

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