Affordable Housing, Community Development, Homelessness, Supportive Housing

Challenges for CCEH – and The Rest of Us -- in The Coming Year

 

Lisa Tepper Bates is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.

With cuts at the federal level for all kinds of programs, and a slowly-recovering economy, we’ve asked officials at various non-profit organizations and other entities involved in ending homelessness and increasing the housing options in Connecticut to describe the challenges (and opportunities) they face in 2014.

2014 is a year of challenge -- and of opportunity -- for those whose daily work is the mission to end homelessness in Connecticut. 

Bucking the trend isn’t always a good thing: Connecticut’s 2013 Point-in-Time Count (the annual census of homelessness completed in every state across the country) reflected, sadly, an increase in homelessness in CT, as opposed to decreases in homelessness nationally. That’s the bad news.

But there is good news, too!  We are making tremendous strides in some of our communities to end chronic homelessness – the numbers of people who have been without permanent housing for long periods of time, and also live with disabilities.  Agencies that serve the homeless in Bridgeport, working together under the moniker of the “Bridgeport Housing First Collaborative,” have brought together the resources of several different agencies – working together as a team.  This collaboration – breaking down silos, reducing duplication of effort, and combining resources to serve more of those in urgent need, and to serve them more effectively – has made this team a national leader in advancing the goal of ending chronic homelessness.

That collaboration and teamwork is the opportunity for all our communities and all agencies in Connecticut that serve the homeless. 

Together with the non-profits that do fine work every day to serve the homeless, our partners at the Department of Housing and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and the United Way of Connecticut’s 2-1-1 Call Center, we are launching this year across the state of Connecticut “Coordinated Access” systems to create this same approach of teamwork in every community.  By working together in every community in the state, we can better provide for each single adult, every head of a family, and every child who is homeless the help they need, and in a timely fashion that meets the urgency of their homelessness.  Our ultimate goal is not to shelter people who are homeless. Our goal is to help them return to the type of permanent housing best for them.  Working together, we can do better to meet this challenge and advance the goal of ending homelessness. 

Coordinating our efforts as teams is a critically important step that will help us use the resources we now have more effectively and efficiently to serve more in need.  It won’t address the 90,000-unit plus gap in deeply affordable housing for our state’s poorest residents.  And it won’t resolve problems like the end of assistance for the long-term unemployed and the lack of sufficient job opportunities in many parts of our state.  But we can – and we must -- do more with what we have, while we continue to address those big challenges that remain.

Lisa Tepper Bates is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.

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