You will often hear those of us who work here at Journey Home say that homelessness can happen to anyone. We say it because we have witnessed the truth of that statement. Case in point, meet Wallace Rosser. Wallace is 54 and has been homeless since 2014. Previous to being homeless, Mr. Rosser worked as a roofer for a local roofing company. He had his own apartment, his own bed, his own couch, his own place to call home. He had all of that until one fateful day at work.
Wallace took a very serious fall while roofing. He fell 25 feet to the ground below and injured his wrist, back, and leg. Physically, Wallace was never the same. The injuries left permanent damage causing him to have to constantly use a cane to walk. After the fall, Wallace’s life took a turn for the worst. He was unable to regain employment and eventually lost his apartment. Wallace found himself with little to no support from family and friends. He was without the safety net that many of us have. Although he has a very close relationship with his mother, he was not able to reside with her as she lives in a subsidized unit for disabled persons that did not allow anyone else to share her apartment with her.
Wallace was left with one choice — he had to explore the shelter system in Hartford. For three years, he bounced from shelter to shelter. When he was unable to obtain shelter for the night he slept outside. In one of his conversations with Kelly Gonzalez, Journey Home Peer Specialist, he said, “I slept anywhere I could lay my head down. I slept in bank portals, by church steps, under the bridge, bus shelters and bus stations.” Like many people who live unsheltered, Wallace experienced a lot of misfortunes. He was robbed, assaulted, and harassed.
Kelly began to work with Wallace, and although he was quite hard to locate as he slept in different places daily, thankfully, Kelly was able to quickly get a bed for him at McKinney Shelter in Hartford and she also began working on gathering all of his identifying documents as they were stolen during a robbery.
Before long, his life was really beginning to stabilize with just a little extra assistance and some concentrated attention.
Kelly and Wallace worked diligently together to obtain all of his documents. Because someone believed in him, he began to really believe in himself. What seemed insurmountable before, became possible. They obtained his medical records which then allowed them to apply for a new Social Security card. Once they obtained his Social Security card, Kelly went with him to New Britain City Hall and assisted him with getting his birth certificate. From there, they went to the Department of Motor Vehicles so he could apply for his official State ID. Soon after that trip to the DMV, Wallace received his State ID in the mail. Christmas had come early! Wallace was filled with incredible joy and a sense of deep gratitude.
On August 25th, Wallace was document ready and was officially placed on the list for a housing opportunity. On September 12th, Wallace was referred to Community Renewal Team and officially moved into his new place in October. Three years of homelessness had finally come to an end.
Wallace wouldn’t be where he is today without our supporters. We can’t do this work without all of you. There is so much that goes into housing just one person. For someone who is chronically homelessness, it is definitely not as simple as just getting a key to a new place. There are lots of steps and having the support of someone like Kelly really is the difference between finding a home or remaining homeless. Thank you for allowing us to hire people like Kelly Gonzalez. Without housing navigation and outreach coordination we would not be able to witness the steady decline we have witnessed in reducing chronic homelessness over these last three years. We are all deeply grateful for your support.
Patti Stewkesbury, Marketing Director of Kinsley Group, wrote a reflection of the Kinsley Group’s recent experience of volunteering and adopting a client with Journey Home’s Making a House a Home program.
In October, The Kinsley Group was matched with Journey Home. Turning the new apartment into a home soon became Kinsley’s job!
Kinsley was matched with, Jenny, a young mother of two, who had just moved into her own place after being homeless and needed help making her new apartment a home. Four people from the Kinsley Employee Activities Committee visited with her to uncover what she needed to make her house a home. The sad answer was almost everything! Our goal was before us! We worked to obtain the items on her list from tag sales, consignment shops and our own attics! When we visited with Jenny, she was reluctant to ask for everything she needed. So we worked with her to make the list comprehensive and inclusive of everything she might need. It can be hard for the person on the receiving end, and we imagined it was probably embarrassing for her, though she never let that on. We took her list and ran with it. We posted fliers up in our facility, placed a box in the lunchroom for donations and designated an area in our warehouse for furniture, which soon came pouring in! We shopped tag sale sites on facebook and found that many people donated that item instead of their original intent to sell it once they found out what we were doing! We also discovered how kind people are in general, with so many strangers feeling an immediate connectedness to the cause. People are so willing to help when you make it personal. At yard sales, the same thing happened! People donated items that were for sale. Most Items weren’t new, but in good condition. We also collected money from something Kinsley calls “Jean’s Friday” where we designate a quarterly charity as the recipient of a $25.00 donation that employees pay in order to wear jeans on Fridays. We used that money to purchase things like diapers and other items we didn’t receive in donation!
During the two weeks of our campaign, I acted as point person with our family. I kept her updated and let her see photos of the growing pile! We never pried into her life or circumstances which enabled her to trust us. She loved being connected with us, the way we were to her. I let her pick when we received multiples of the same item. She loved being part of it.
When move in time came, we arranged for a team of volunteers to use Kinsley’s allotted “community service” hours to bring the items in company vehicles to the home. A team of eight descended on the apartment in Hartford and made short work of moving in! Within an hour and a half everything was in, the beds were set up, locks and curtain rods installed and furniture placed! We happily hauled the dirty mattress that the family had been sleeping on out to the curb!
This opportunity with Journey Home was an amazing one for everyone involved. It displayed the caring nature of our company and the importance of community. It’s often said “it takes a village” and this project made us feel like “villagers” helping a young mom who badly needed it. The best part of the experience was when Jenny said “I hope one day I can do for somebody what you have done for me.” The Journey Home program is truly changing lives, and possibly hearts and minds. I would recommend that any company trying to engage in the community become part of Journey Home and “adopt” a family, it likely won’t be your last!
2017 marked Journey Home’s tenth year of work in the Greater Hartford region. In the last four years, since the start of our local Coordinated Access Network, we have witnessed a 75% decline in ending chronic homelessness. The progress in this part of the state has been so substantial that Journey Home has been asked to expand our Coordinated Access work into the New Britain/Bristol area.
This part of the state, called the Central Coordinated Access Network, is comprised of New Britain, Bristol, Southington, Plainville, and Berlin. This part of the state received 7% of all 211 shelter and housing related calls this fall, and has a number of different shelter, housing, and outreach providers already working together.
Starting in January, Journey Home will be providing backbone support to the Coordinated Access Network in Central CAN by helping with local meeting facilitation, data management, and systems coordination.
Since joining the staff of Journey Home over three years ago, I have had a deep desire to engage local faith communities in our work. My background is the church and it is what I know best. I love the idea of engaging our faith in the dialogue of social justice and social change. I do not think these two things are independent of one another. I think there is a deep connection between faith (whatever that means to you personally) and our responsibility to be good citizens of this earth.
Article 25 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” This is not unlike directives from my own faith background. A peek into the life of Christ would quickly turn up many references to ensuring that the rights of all are honored.
I have been getting more and more offers to speak to a variety of faith groups in our region about the work we are doing at Journey Home. We are also seeing an increasing number of faith communities supporting our work through volunteerism and financial contributions. It has been such a delight to visit churches and synagogues and share all of the great work we are doing here at Journey Home — from young children in Sunday School to Tea Socials for the senior group, we are sharing the message of our mission.
If you are reading this and would be interested in introducing your own faith community to our work at Journey Home, please let me know. We would love to join you and those who are part of your community as we work to help people on their journey home. It would be a wonderful way to kickoff this New Year! For more information, I can be reached at email@example.com.
The great business magnate, Henry Ford, once said: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Over the last several months Journey Home and A Hand Up, a West Hartford-based nonprofit, have been in intentional conversations about our work and our future together. In an effort to capitalize on our individual strengths, we are happy to announce that our two organizations have created a partnership. We think that working together will allow us to be stronger together.
Similar to Journey Home’s Making a House a Home (MHH) program, A Hand Up (AHU) distributes donated goods to help people transition from homelessness to independent living. Since the inception of our MHH program here at Journey Home, we have struggled with storage and transportation issues. AHU has a large and wonderfully organized warehouse space near New Park Avenue in West Hartford, as well as a large moving truck. Unlike Journey Home, AHU does not have any paid staff. Instead, they have a very hard-working volunteer board of directors who is able to make everything happen. We have come to the conclusion that identifying our challenges and maximizing our strengths will allow us to serve more people more effectively and efficiently.
Of the new relationship, A Hand Up Board President, Michael Fishman said, “A Hand Up, Inc. is proud to announce that it is joining forces with Journey Home in its mission to end homelessness in Greater Hartford. We are very excited to be working together to use the strengths of both organizations to achieve this goal. We look forward to working with this wonderful organization, as we will be able to accomplish so much more with this new collaborative effort.”
We are beyond thrilled to be working with A Hand Up and we can’t wait to see where we are headed, together.
The winter is a particularly busy time of year here at Journey Home. Between the ongoing work of all our provider agencies and the harsh weather conditions, each year Greater Hartford strives to identify safe overflow spaces to ensure nobody is left outdoors during the coldest months.
This year we were lucky to see great leadership from The Salvation Army in Hartford as they stepped up to provide emergency services through the coldest months of the year. Beginning on November 1st, Salvation Army Marshall House, one of our local year-round shelters, began operating an overflow space that serves individual women and families. This overflow shelter provides a safe temporary space for individual women and families with children, and each day the overflow staff work to find longer-term shelter options for families. This process involves daily collaboration and problem solving between the YWCA shelter, South Park Inn, East Hartford Family Shelter, and Salvation Army’s Marshall House.
In addition to this option for individual women and families, the Salvation Army has also partnered with the City of Hartford to provide an overnight warming center, hosted at Willie Ware Recreational Center. This Warming Center, open from December 7th until March 31st will be open nightly from 7:30PM until 7:00AM, and will provide coffee and snacks for folks who are seeking a warm temporary space. This location will also partner with all the shelters serving individuals in the Greater Hartford area to find longer term accommodations, and a safe place to sleep. This overnight warming center will also provide case management services on site.
Those two overflow resources will be a great boost, but in addition, Salvation Army has partnered with Center Church and Hands On Hartford to provide an additional essential service this winter. Between the hours of 4-7PM each night, Salvation Army will host a Triage Center. This drop-in location will provide an additional location where people can come to stay warm, and will also provide a hot meal each night. While keeping warm and waiting for the Warming Center to officially open, staff will complete intakes and work diligently to refer households to any openings in the year-round shelter beds. Having a safe place to stay warm, have a meal, and explore locations to stay safe for the night is a wonderful resource in our community, and one we are lucky to have again this year.
Providing a safe space during the winter months for our most vulnerable households is not an easy job, and it takes help from everyone in our community. Through the leadership of Salvation Army, partnership from Center Church, Hands On Hartford, and the City of Hartford, and diligent planning and brainstorming from our local shelter providers, we hope that this winter will be smooth, and we will be able to find safe shelter for everyone in our community.
This has been quite the busy year with our Making a House a Home program! We have had our first and now our second Home Makeover, a few fantastic client adoptions one of which you can read more about through our “In Their Own Words” section, and numerous move-ins with volunteers from The Hartford and HYPE just to name a few.
However, one of the highlights of this year has been being able to work with a group of volunteers that has exceeded all expectations, they go above and beyond the typical volunteer, and have committed to helping end homelessness just like we here at Journey Home have. To Alison, our Volunteer and Communications Coordinator, they are truly members of the team. Matt Brewer, Rob Dulitsky, Judy Cooke, and Fabricio Suarez have been vital members of the Making a House a Home program. Committing time during the week to help pick up furniture in the community and deliver to clients in need. They go above and beyond, move furniture with and without staff present, pick up furniture from neighbors and friends, and offer their free time to help those in need. They are a group of people with great minds and even bigger hearts. This program has been able to help at least three times the number of people because of volunteers like them.
We are so thankful and blessed to have volunteers like them in this community, helping Journey Home and other non-profits. They and their families are truly making a difference in this community. Thank you, Matt, Rob, Judy, and Fabricio! We couldn’t do it without you!
Journey Home is seeking volunteers to assist with the annual Homeless Youth Count! The Youth Count is a survey that is completed with young adults, aged 13-24 to help us identify how many young people are homeless or unstably housed in Connecticut. This year’s Youth Count will take place January 24th-January 30th.
In the last few years, Journey Home has learned a lot about our current homeless system thanks to the many different data systems in place throughout Connecticut. But we know that young people experiencing housing instability often don’t go into shelters or seek help through the usual channels. Because of this, the Youth Count is a week-long period where volunteers across the state administer surveys to young adults to learn more about housing instability while identifying the resources that are needed to help end youth homelessness.
The survey, which is anonymous, is completed using a smartphone or tablet, and Journey Home is seeking volunteers to help administer the survey. Surveyors can sign up to help out for a couple of hours or more throughout the course of the week. Sign up to volunteer by clicking the link in the Winter Newsletter. Or copy the link below and paste it into your browser.
Without knowing it at the time, growing up in a gritty section of Albany, New York may have prepared Kenneth for his life ahead. Or maybe it was losing his father to sickle cell anemia at the age of 5. Or maybe it was watching his mother walk out the door on him and his two younger brothers just after his 6th birthday. Maybe it was all of those things combined or none of them. Resourcefulness and resiliency was a must for him as life took its not so gentle twists. And he learned those two things at a very young age.
Kenneth says that Albany is the most beautiful place on earth. One can’t doubt him as these words flow out of his mouth with such truth. His confidence about this statement and the facts he lays forward to prove it, would make most people jump in their car and get themselves up to Albany just to gaze at its spectacular beauty. For Kenneth, Albany is home and home is where beauty resides.
Kenneth left his beloved Albany to follow a work opportunity and landed in Springfield about ten years ago. Things were going well. He had an apartment, new friends, a good job. He liked Springfield – it was no Albany, but he saw glimpses that this place could be a great new home for him. And it was, but sometimes life can take us in an unexpected direction. All the planning in the world can’t prepare one for life’s ups and downs. Shortly after moving to Springfield, Kenneth was laid off from his job. He had a couple of choices to make – go back to Albany or stay and make it work in Springfield. He chose the latter.
His decision to stay in Springfield changed the course of his life, but he shares with the utmost conviction that it was the absolute right decision. He says that he wouldn’t be who he is today if he had gone back home. And he really likes who he is. The decision to stay in Springfield started his path to homelessness. After losing his job, he lost his apartment. The loss of his apartment opened him up to feelings he had never felt before. The trauma of losing his father and being abandoned by his mother at a young age all came to the surface and for the first time in his life he was confronted with his mental health. It was during this time he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and an anxiety related disorder. It was the beginning of a long road of treatment. But during that time of discovery, all he could feel was gratitude. Gratitude for being alive, for finding himself, and for the path that was set before him.
Eventually, Kenneth made his way to Hartford. He was in and out of shelters and sleeping outside. As his mind was healing, he was getting back on his feet and working again full-time. Even though he was fully employed, he could never scrape together enough money to get his own place. Life is expensive. Especially when you are starting from scratch. But, he never gave up. Never felt like it was too much. He pressed on. And the words of Biblical prophet Jeremiah continually rang in his head. The words that his grandmother taught him so many years earlier, “’For surely I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.’”
Kenneth has a future with hope. He recently moved into his very first apartment after years of homelessness. He continues to work full-time while attending college. He loves his new place and is slowly settling in. He’s also made it one of his life goals to speak out against injustice and to share his story so that others who have walked a similar road can get the help that he received. It’s his deep and abiding gratitude and his rock solid faith that gets him out of bed each morning to find his voice for the voiceless and fight the good fight. And he is home and that is the most beautiful place on earth.
Backbone organizations typically don’t provide direct service. Oddly enough, Journey Home still gets many visitors on a daily basis. Clients coming in to inquire about the Housing Choice Voucher program or simply to ask for help with housing. One recent day, a woman came in to see Kelly Gonzalez, Journey Home’s Peer Specialist. This woman has been known to have been sleeping outside for at least the past year. Kelly’s goal was to get the client verified and document ready for housing. One of the biggest barriers with documentation is obtaining verification for people who are sleeping in places not meant for human habitation.
The woman came in to make an appointment since Kelly has been looking for her in the community. As she was making an appointment, our mailman came in. The client left and he jokingly asked us if she was giving us trouble. He mentioned seeing her every day on his route. A spark went off. Could he be the missing piece? It seemed like it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Although he has delivered our mail almost every day for the past two years, it wasn’t entirely clear if he knew what Journey Home does day in and day out. We began to explain our role in ending homelessness in our region.
It was later revealed that he has seen her sleeping in places not meant for human habitation for the past 9 years, more than 10-15 times a month. He has also witnessed her searching through trash for food on several occasions. He has even gone to the extent of buying her food from fast food restaurants if they are near one. The best part of all this was that he was willing to write all of this on a letter to verify her length of homeless history. This was such a big help for Kelly in completing the client’s homeless verification. Fate is defined as “to be destined to happen.” Was it fate that brought him in when she was here or was it just a coincidence? We don’t know for sure but we can say that she is one step closer to being housed, thanks to our mailman.