Howard Rifkin is the executive director at Partnership for Strong Communities.
As we turn the page on 2013, we at the Partnership for Strong Communities want to take a look back. In the past year:
- We developed and launched the Opening Doors-CT Veterans Work Group to focus on the development of concrete action steps to eliminate homelessness amongst Veterans by 2017. The Workgroup first convened in April 2013, finalized the plan in September 2013, and is now in the implementation phase.
- Leaders within the Reaching Home Campaign have been active partners on the new Interagency Council on Affordable Housing, which will continue to work with the new Department of Housing on assessment of needs, necessary changes to policy, finance and process. The Council’s first report released in January 2013 includes homelessness as a central area of focus and highlights the Reaching Home’s Campaign’s “Opening Doors CT” blueprint. It calls on the DOH to provide leadership and a “comprehensive approach to eliminating homelessness” as part of its mission.
- We launched the first Connecticut Runaway and Homeless Youth Study in a partnership of Yale, Reaching Home, and the Center for Children’s Advocacy to inform and refine the response to the needs of unaccompanied homeless youth. The study, developed by Derrick Gordon, Ph.D. from the Yale University School of Medicine, included 98 interviews of youth. Guidance from the Agency on Children, Youth and Families, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the CT Runaway and Homeless Youth Study was used to mobilize support for a comprehensive planning process to build service capacity and integrate services for homeless youth.
- Led the design and coordination with AIDS CT of a national proposal for the Social Innovation Fund (SIF).
- Developed an inventory to highlight successful examples of combining homelessness and employment services that exist both throughout the country and within the state. The inventory is an examination of those initiatives, pointing out the most successful components of each so that communities in Connecticut can emulate their practices. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we believe that organizations throughout the state have much to learn from each other and much to gain from collaboration. The inventory aims to inspire holistic, flexible, and comprehensive strategies to addressing homelessness and economic insecurity.
- Despite the downturn in the housing market, our HOMEConnecticut program has engaged more than 60 municipalities in considering application for planning/predevelopment grants to identify locations and strategies for housing creation. Of those, 12 municipalities have created 13 Incentive Housing Zones, with another half dozen pending. Meanwhile, 10 more towns have received planning grants, with another 12-15 expected to apply in early 2014.
- The Partnership has taken the lead in Transit-Oriented Development so that affordable housing options are built near the state’s existing and new mass transit lines. The Partnership has worked closely with CRCOG, DECD, DOT, DOH and OPM – along with such other stakeholders at Regional Plan Association, Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Connecticut Fund for the Environment.
- The Partnership conducted its fifth consecutive year of IForums on topics focused specifically or closely related to housing, homelessness and community development. The 7 forums in 2013 drew more than 900 attendees, nearly half of them new visitors to our Hartford home, The Lyceum. The Partnership will continue this work with six IForums starting in January.
- We helped to inform the Governor’s two-year budget proposal, which included a significant amount of resources aligned with the Opening Doors-CT recommendations. It included $136 million in capital funding over the biennium, $60 million over the biennium to continue the commitment to public housing revitalization, and $20 million to develop 100 new units of permanent supportive housing. Appropriations were requested to annualize $1 million for rental assistance subsidies, $500,000 for a statewide Rapid Rehousing program, and $1 million for services for the supportive housing. 300 new RAPs were proposed to combine with the Public Housing units to ensure an adequate ongoing revenue stream.
It’s been a busy year, and we look forward to continuing to work with our many partners to build the political will to end homelessness in Connecticut, create more affordable housing, and build strong communities. 2014, here we come.
Howard Rifkin is the Executive Director of the Partnership for Strong Communities.
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