Providers from the homelessness, criminal justice and health care sectors gathered to learn about ways they can work collaboratively through multi-system partnerships to address homelessness for individuals cycling in and out of these complex systems during the final IForum “Preventing Future Chronic Homelessness” hosted by the Partnership for Strong Communities.
The group heard from Alicia Woodsby, Partnership for Strong Communities' Executive Director, who outlined the efforts and progress towards ending chronic homelessness and provided historical context to explain how the deinstitutionalization movement contributed to the increase number of those experiencing chronic homelessness.
Commissioner Klein, Department of Housing and Commissioner Delphin-Rittmon, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services congratulated the group on the progress of ending chronic homelessness thus far, and shared with the group the work of their agencies in this collaborative effort.
Keynote speaker, Terri Power, Senior Program Manager, CSH Ohio and Project Manager for Returning Home Ohio (RHO) shared how the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has partnered with CSH to provide supportive housing for those exiting the corrections system. The goal of the program is to prevent homelessness and reduce recidivism among offenders who are at-risk of homelessness upon release and who have a mental illness. ODRC funds CSH to administer Returning Home Ohio across the state. RHO provides monies for rental subsidies, tenant assistance, supportive services, program evaluation and program management. In a recent outcomes evaluation of clients served from July 2012 through June 30, 2016 done by CSH, Ms. Power shared that the program has successfully maintained housing for 88% of participants, with only 12% recidivating.
Following Terri’s presentation, the group heard from a panel that explored the linkage between the health, criminal justice, and housing systems, and how these systems serve an overlapping population that cycles in and out of homelessness. Moderated by David Gonzalez Rice, Community Impact Coordinator for the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, panel members included:
- Kevin Kane, Chief State’s Attorney
- Dr. Kathleen Mauer, Medical Director, CT Department of Corrections
- Fred Morton, CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
- Steve DiLella, CT Department of Housing
- Staci Peete, Norwalk Hospital
- Kathy Flaherty, CT Legal Rights Project
The panelists shared innovative models to assist those cycling in and out of hospitals and jails with treatment and housing. These models include providing treatment interventions for those with behavioral health needs instead of moving forward with criminal prosecution, when appropriate. The group highlighted the need of diverting people away from the criminal justice system, into appropriate programs to assist them with stability, so they do not fall into a cycle of homelessness. They also underscored the importance of all systems taking on housing as a priority and noted that housing is the overarching intervention that provides stability to promote health and safety. In conclusion, the group asked all providers to reach out to these systems, to be engaged with the clients and to make connections early so that each system could support the other in promoting health, wellness and stability for those experiencing homelessness.