2015 – A Year of Transformation


Alicia Woodsby is the Executive Director of Partnership for Strong Communities

Lawmaking is often equated to sausage making. I would have to say the same of systems reform. You bring together a lot of pieces, engage them in a process that is at times unpleasant and unseemly, and end up with a new product that gives little indication as to how it was actually formed.

In 2012, Connecticut entered a new phase in its work to end homelessness when it launched Opening Doors-CT, a statewide collective impact effort that follows the national Opening Doors plan. The purpose is to unify the work of federal, state, and local partners in order to end veteran and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016, and homelessness among youth and families with children by the end of 2022.

To accelerate our pace toward the first goal of Opening Doors-CT, the state joined Zero:2016, a national opportunity for technical assistance and support to finish the jobs of ending veteran and chronic homelessness in the state. We were one of only four states to join, and the initiative has been endorsed and adopted by Governor Dan Malloy. Over the past year, we have seen results from the cumulative impact of federal, state, and local level planning efforts combined with unprecedented state resources and community collaboration. The results have been transformative. And the truth is that transformation, like sausage making, can be messy.

Countless hours of planning, debating, negotiating, testing, failing, contemplating, shifting, problem solving, implementing, succeeding, substantiating, organizing, messaging, fundraising, and sometimes starting over again. I have watched these exhaustive efforts play out amongst some of the most passionate and dedicated people I have ever encountered in my life. From state officials to philanthropists to local shelter providers to advocates, we’ve yelled, pushed one another, and reached our breaking points, but we’ve all kept moving forward toward our collective goal. We all believe that homelessness is unacceptable and preventable. And we all know that we can solve it, given the will and resources and a collective effort to implement new and creative solutions. Providers of services have had to innovate and take some risks. Everyone has had to think outside the box.

The result of these combined efforts wouldn’t have been believable just a few years ago. Connecticut has transformed a disjointed system of shelters into coordinated access networks with a single point of entry and a common tool for assessing vulnerability and need.  The state announced the end of chronic homelessness among veterans and is on the verge of ending all homelessness among veterans. We are on track to end chronic homelessness, and substantial groundwork has been laid to tackle homelessness among families and youth. This is happening through the coordination of multiple strategies, such as 100-day challenges in communities across the state that set audacious goals around chronic homelessness to accelerate the pace of the system change necessary to meet that goal, community lists that prioritize individuals and families in need of housing assistance by vulnerability and need, a public/private partnership to tackle employment outcomes for families exiting homelessness, and a new youth count to determine the number of youth experiencing homelessness across the state, to name a few.

It’s simultaneously the messiest and most beautiful process I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of.  Connecticut is creating a system. And while of course it’s a system that needs to be maintained, the lessons learned thus far can be harnessed to improve the efficiency and pace with which we implement solutions for families and youth, until homelessness in our state becomes something that is brief, rare, and doesn’t happen again.

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