Partnership for Strong Communities
I joined the Partnership in August of 2018 a few months after graduating with my Master’s in Social Work in May. One of the first things I loved about working at the Partnership was their dedication to collaborative and collective impact. This “theory of change” stems from the idea that when systems and organizations in a community come together to solve large-scale systemic problems, efforts to create positive change are more likely to succeed if there is buy-in from the different providers and leaders in the community. This is something we have been successful in doing through the Reaching Home campaign to end homelessness.
In my first five months as a member of this team, I was immediately engaged in and involved in the Governor’s Challenge on Family Homelessness. This initiative, which began at the end of September and ended mid-December, was the first big event I was a part of. The Challenge set out to push Connecticut in its efforts to end family homelessness by the end of 2020 by housing as many families as we could in a brief 77-day window.
In total, we were able to house 287 families during this 77-day period, including 551 children and 987 people total. Several families were also housed after the conclusion of the Challenge. Between December of 2017 and December of last year, we saw an increase of 60% in the number of families housed.
The Governor's Challenge on Family Homelessness was spearheaded by the Connecticut Department of Housing (DOH) with support from the Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC) and the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH). In collaboration with the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), these state and advocacy organizations brought the seven Coordinated Access Network (CAN) teams together not only to house families, but to identify barriers and strategize new solutions to make our homelessness response system one that makes homelessness a brief, time-limited, and non-reoccurring event in a person or family’s life.
The following 77 days were a whirlwind of creativity, problem-solving, and data collection efforts as we sought to house families in the state. With the designated CAN Team Captains meeting weekly with state and advocacy agencies throughout the Challenge, the teams and statewide partners were able to identify and mitigate challenges as they were presented. In this short time, we were able to develop new statewide processes that created better ease of access for families seeking childcare or development resources and services, partnered with the OEC to begin a new initiative aimed at reducing childhood trauma by ending their experiences of homelessness, and improved our data collection efforts by including more detailed information on families experiences of homelessness in our current statewide database.
As we came to the end of our Challenge timeframe, several state officials, and housing advocates came together to review the impact of the challenge, and to plan effectively for sustaining and building on the progress that was made. In this space, the CANs discussed the goals they had set at the outset of the Family Challenge and set additional goals to house more families moving forward.
After this planning workshop took place, advocates and other statewide partners transitioned into a celebration alongside the Governor and his commitment to ending homelessness during his time in office.
“No one should have to choose between a roof over their head or health care, warm clothing, or nutritious food for their children,” Governor Malloy said in a press release. “The availability of housing creates stable, safe communities where families thrive, businesses grow, and people want to live and work. Throughout our administration, we’ve made unprecedented efforts to develop affordable housing in the state – creating over 25,000 new units during these past eight years. During this time, Connecticut was certified as having become just the second state in the nation to end homelessness among veterans, and we’ve led the nation in the fight to end chronic homelessness for all of our people. I am confident that if our state continues these efforts, we can reach our goal of bringing an end to youth and family homelessness by the end of 2020.”
Other speakers at the event included Commissioner Evonne M. Klein of DOH, Commissioner Dave Wilkinson of the Office of Early Childhood (OEC), Commissioner Joette Katz of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), Kay Moshier McDivitt of NAEH, Richard Cho of CCEH, and Alicia Woodsby of PSC.
Overall, the Governor’s Challenge met 71% of our statewide bold goal of housing 360 families in 77 days. Having access to the knowledge and power of federal, state, and frontline partners was crucial to identifying barriers, improving access to services, and creating a stronger statewide approach in our efforts to end family homelessness by the end of 2020. None of this would have been possible without an innovative and collaborative mindset shared by so many housing advocates and service providers in the state of Connecticut.
To view the Debrief Document documenting the progress we made toward ending family homelessness, click here. To view a detailed report on data collected during the Family Challenge, visit CT Can Data’s website.