Monthly Archive for: ‘October, 2017’

Housing Choice Voucher Program Update!

A program that has had one of the biggest impacts on our efforts to end chronic homelessness has been the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (S8HCV) program. Just over a year ago, Journey Home began serving as the coordinator of this program for the City of Hartford. Our role includes screening applications for the new chronically homeless preference in the S8HCV program. This preference includes people who were formerly homeless and who now live in supportive housing (apartments with social services included). When someone is awarded a voucher through the preference, the old supportive housing unit is freed up for someone who has been experiencing chronic homelessness to obtain stable housing.

This program has had a big impact for three reasons: it has increased the number of people for whom we can provide a home, it has created enormous cost savings, and it is providing more housing options for those experiencing chronic homelessness. First, this program has quadrupled the rate at which we normally increase access to supportive housing each year. Hartford normally adds 20-30 units of supportive housing each year. However, through the S8HCV preference, 112 households who were homeless have successfully moved into apartments in the past 14 months, and not a single one has fallen back into homelessness.

The second reason the S8HCV program has had such a big impact is, compared to other types of programs, there will be approximately 48 – 73 million dollars in cost savings over the next 10 years. To clarify, if we were to develop and provide new supportive housing to meet the needs of these same 101 households, it would have cost approximately 23 million public dollars over ten years. Several studies have shown that the high cost of shelter, emergency room stays, inpatient visits, police, legal, and incarceration by each person experiencing chronic homelessness is between $25,000 and $50,000 annually. Being conservative, this amounts to $25 million dollars in expenses for the 101 people over 10 years. The S8HCV program is not only helping us to maximize housing resources in the most efficient way we can to meet our goal of ending chronic homelessness, it is also preventing more public costs.

Finally, the third reason this program is having such a big impact is that it is providing individuals and families experiencing homelessness with more choices for where they want to live and what kind of assistance they prefer. When people have a voice in deciding where to live and what kind of services they would like to have, it usually leads to better stabilization in housing, and a higher quality of life for the individuals and families we are serving.

The City of Hartford is the only municipality in the country that we know of that has implemented such strong S8HCV preferences for the chronically homeless, homeless families and homeless youth. Journey Home is grateful to the Connecticut HUD field office, to Imagineers LLC, to the City of Hartford, and to all our partner agencies in the Greater Hartford Coordinated Access Network for their partnership on this program.

This program should be recognized nationally for its high success rate, for the increased number of chronically homeless people served, for the vast cost savings, and for the increased choice provided to those who are struggling in our community. It should also be applauded as a game-changer in the long fight to eradicate the complex social problem of chronic homelessness.

Hands on Hartford Utility Assistance

The different housing and shelter providers in the Greater Hartford CAN come together every week to try and find resources to help assist households moving out of shelters and off of the streets into safe housing. Over the course of the last year, as housing programs and shelters worked together on more and more cases, a consistent barrier became obvious: utility arrears. Utility arrears are owed payments to a utility company. Luckily, Hands On Hartford, a non-profit organization that operates supportive housing, a soup kitchen, a food pantry, and volunteer programs, recently received a grant with the power to make big changes in our community.

Utility arrears, built up over time for a myriad of different reasons, could often be some of the greatest challenges to getting into housing. If you can’t get your lights turned on, you can’t live in an apartment. Housing programs can help find a unit, can help negotiate with landlords, and can help gather essential paperwork. But when it comes to getting the lights on, programs are limited in their abilities.

Very few agencies are able to assist with utility arrears, and while electric companies are occasionally willing to work out a payment agreement, there is usually a requirement for some immediate payment up front. For households who fell into homelessness because of a lost job, or because of overwhelming medical bills, there is often no savings in place to help tackle this bill. Staff were out of ideas, and households were stuck, just outside of housing.

Fast forward to July of this year, when Hands On Hartford made an exciting announcement- they had been awarded a grant to help pay utility bills. And better yet, they wanted to prioritize any households who were in our region, working with a housing program, but whose utility bills were standing in their way. The applause when the program rolled out was overwhelming, and the success has been as well.

Through this program, Hands On Hartford was able to serve over 60 households, including over two-dozen households referred by the CAN providers, with an average of $500 assistance.

Klaudia Lobeska, a case manager at CRT’s East Hartford Family Shelter said this about the program, “Hands on Hartford helped a lot of my clients. There are a few that have two bills and we were able to pay one of them and now they are working on paying down the other. One client had the balance paid off by HOH and she was able to have her intake appointment with a housing program. The Hands On Hartford funds helped very much in allowing my clients to be able to turn their utilities on!”

The immediate benefits of this grant were clear. More people are able to move quickly into housing than they were before these funds were available. That, in itself is incredible. But more impressive yet is the fact that a community that used to be deeply disconnected now is able to come together and address issues in a collaborative way. We can’t always find a solution the same day that we identify the issue, but this program is a great example of how a partner in our community, when presented with a compelling need and a new opportunity, was able to balance meeting the needs of some of their existing clients while making it a priority to address the needs of homeless and vulnerable individuals and families facing a barrier to obtaining a place to call home.

#GivingTuesday

The Holidays are getting closer and the giving season is near! Not only does that mean great deals are in the stores, it also means that there are great opportunities to get involved and give back! This holiday season, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving we invite you join #GivingTuesday and donate to Journey Home! #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement that has been built by individuals, families, organizations, businesses and communities in all 50 states and in countries around the world. This year, #GivingTuesday falls on November 28. #GivingTuesday harnesses the collective power of a unique blend of partners to transform how people think about, talk about, and participate in the giving season. It inspires people to take collective action to improve their communities, give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they believe in, and help create a better world. #GivingTuesday demonstrates how every act of generosity counts, and that they mean even more when we give together. On Tuesday, November 28, 2017, charities, families, businesses, community centers and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving.

This will be Journey Home’s third year participating in a #GivingTuesday campaign. Our first year we raised $1,000; our second year we raised $2,000; and this year our goal is to raise $5,000! With your help, we know we will be able to reach that goal! Look out for our upcoming emails, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts and share with your friends! Follow us @JourneyHomeCT to stay updated with our #GivingTuesday campaign and how your dollar can make a difference. But don’t forget, #GivingTuesday is not only about donating money, it is also about donating time, advocating for causes that you care about, and getting involved! #GivingTuesday is so much more than one day in November. Pledge to do more the following year. 
For instance, you can give a certain amount every month to a charity, pledge to volunteer every month or launch a payroll giving program to continue to give back. The sky’s the limit! How will you give back this giving season?

Ending Youth Homelessness

In February 2017 there was a statewide youth count that surveyed youth from ages 16 to 24 to help determine their housing stability. It is estimated in the Greater Hartford area there is 1,258 youth who are homeless or unstably housed. Homelessness influences young people’s lives in many ways with regard to their physical and mental health and their overall life trajectory.

Young people experiencing housing instability have a history of contact with many systems – education, juvenile justice, child welfare and law enforcement. Unfortunately, no one entity has ongoing responsibility for them. To prevent this cycle, it is essential to develop a coordinated response to youth who are experiencing housing instability in Connecticut. The solution to this problem is to create a broad set of interventions including policy change, discharge plans that reduce rate of becoming homeless, reunification with family when safe and appropriate, education and employment supports, individualized care plans, and a range of housing options tailored for youth.

One way to be able to look at the data from these different systems is by creating a system dynamic model. System dynamic modeling offers a tool for stakeholders to see the system as a whole, allowing for an understanding of a wide range of factors and risks, how intervention delivery systems interact, and the impact that national and state policy might have on solving the problem. A computer simulation model is built by stakeholders using data from existing secondary data sources, the literature, and information on current policies and programs. Once developed, the model is used by stakeholders to plan effective interventions and to use for legislative advocacy, demonstrating to legislators where best to allocate resources and how policy changes will impact the problem and at what cost.

There are two phases to this project. The first phase, which is now complete, included gathering community stakeholders to map the problem of youth homelessness. Journey Home is now fundraising to complete the second phase of the project, which includes gathering the data and building the simulation model.

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