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.
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.
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?
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.
Frankie is a big guy with a heart of gold and a story to tell. After almost 10 years
of being unstably housed and homeless, Frankie finally found his way home. His
home was an apartment on James Street in Hartford. The way Frankie tells it,
the apartment was great, but violence was erupting outside under his window.
Still, he didn’t mind. It was a welcome change after years spent in homeless
shelters, the streets, and rooming houses.
But then he was sent to the hospital for two weeks with congestive heart failure.
When he returned, he found the place ransacked. Someone had kicked in the
door and taken everything. “Except the clothes; thank God they didn’t take
those,” he said. After moving from his first apartment on James St, he shared his
story with us from his new apartment in the South End, secured for him by his
case worker at the Chrysalis Center. A case worker he calls an angel.
And entering Frankie’s apartment is a thing of wonder. Everything is so tidy and
everything has its place. He’s a self-proclaimed neat freak. When he moved into
this apartment, he had nothing but a tiny mattress pad. A tiny mattress pad is
tough place to sleep for a big guy like Frankie. But, thanks to Journey Home’s
Making a House a Home program, Frankie has an almost fully furnished
apartment. And he has also recently adopted a homeless kitten — Runty. Frankie
and Runty spend their days together in their beautiful new apartment, far away
from the streets.
On Monday, May 22nd, the City of Hartford launched their new municipal ID card
program. The program, which will offer photo IDs to residents of the City of
Hartford, presents a great opportunity for many of our neighbors experiencing
homelessness. Obtaining identification documents can be a huge barrier to
housing and employment for folks staying in the shelters and outdoors. If you do
not have a safe place to stay, keeping track of things like a birth certificate or a
social security card can be difficult. And if those documents are lost, it can be a
huge challenge to get a replacement. For example, to receive a photo ID at the
Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), you need to prove that you
are a CT resident by producing mail, you need to prove your identity with a list of
government issued documents, and you need to prove your age (often with a
birth certificate). If you do not have all three pieces of identification, the DMV
will not issue a photo ID. The Hartford City ID program also requires applicants
to provide proof of identity and residency, but the broad range of documents that
can be used makes the municipal IDs much more accessible for those
What makes Hartford’s process so much more accessible for folks experiencing
homelessness is the fact that homeless residents can use a form that is printed
out from the Homeless Management Information System (a database used by all
local shelters) as proof of their identity to obtain this card. This is a major step
towards removing some of the barriers of receiving a photo ID card, and in turn,
can be a major step towards obtaining housing. The program is financially self sustaining through the $10 or $15 dollar fee. Journey Home’s Housing Choice Voucher Preference Coordinator, Leana Ruiz, recently tested this process with a client, accompanying him to apply for this card with the database form in hand. The experience was easy, all documents were referred to the client after they applied for the card, and the ID will be arriving in the mail shortly. The City of Hartford’s municipal ID program, riding the coattails of a similar program in New York City where the ID program allows folks, who may otherwise struggle to obtain a government ID, access to proof of their identity. In Hartford, this ID will be accepted as proof of identity for all city offices, including the police department, and polling stations.
In Hartford, this program has been in a planning phase for two years, initially
pitched by former Hartford Mayor, Pedro Segarra, and ultimately implemented
in May under Mayor Bronin’s administration. Janice Castle, Director of
Community Engagement at the City of Hartford has worked diligently with the
program vendor to ensure the process is confidential, efficient, and most of all,
serving those who need it most.
Journey Home’s Executive Director, Matt Morgan, attended the City’s press
conference on the first day of the new ID program. Matt shared his hopes that
this card can help people get quickly off of the streets and into housing. Our
neighbors experiencing homelessness face many barriers, and one of the largest
is often identification. Journey Home is so excited to have seen this program
finally come alive, and we hope it will help our community accelerate progress
towards ending homelessness
My Journey Home
By Wanda Y. Gaines
My journey home has not been the best.
I am glad that I survived and passed every test.
I worked hard, to get where I needed to be.
I didn’t allow nothing to stand in my way or stop me.
I had to grow up and prove that I was grown.
I wanted to be independent and stand on my own.
I stayed in a few shelters, that were pretty nice.
I almost was discharged, maybe once or twice.
I knew that I wasn’t going to be there not too long.
I was so sad, but I had to get strong.
I had to believe in myself and prove that I am grown.
I was focused and determined, to be on my own.
I was so happy, when I had found my place.
Everyday, when I wake I wear a smile on my face.
I relied on my faith and continued to believe.
I wanted the best and had to achieve.
I worked hard for my place and now I am grown.
I am proud of myself, because I found my journey home.
The Chronically Homeless Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Preference has
been established through the City of Hartford and Imagineers for households
who meet the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of
chronically homeless (homeless a year or longer and has a disability) or those
that are ready to move out of Permanent Supportive Housing into more
independent living. Journey Home has served as the coordinator of this
preference on behalf of the Greater Hartford CAN since its establishment in July,
2016. In less than a year since implementation, 94 households have signed leases
through this preference and 21 additional participants currently have vouchers
and are in the process of finding units.
The implementation of this preference has been critical to creating turnover in
our region’s permanent supportive housing programs allowing us to serve more
chronically homeless households who may benefit from supportive services.
Partnering with Greater Hartford CAN network of providers allows for the
identification of households who would benefit most from this preference.
Housing Providers provide three months of follow-up support to their clients as
they move on from permanent supportive housing to ensure a smooth and
gradual transition towards independence.
The relationship between Journey Home and Imagineers has been vital. As a
technical assistance provider Journey Home is an expert in working to determine
who meets the definition of chronic homelessness. By utilizing Journey Home as
a third party screening and referral agency, the City of Hartford and Imagineers
are able to direct these limited resources to our most vulnerable community
members. Journey Home continues to collaborate closely with Imagineers to
ensure effectiveness and accuracy throughout the process and is looking forward
to creating more opportunities for eliminating barriers to affordable housing for
the homeless population in our communities.
On Monday, May 8th, Journey Home hosted the 3rd Annual Haircuts for
Humanity event at United Artists Salon on Park Road in West Hartford. On this
day, 40 men, women and children who are experiencing homelessness were
provided free haircuts, as well as a delicious breakfast and lunch. Kevin Irish,
owner of United Artists Salon, along with Louis Izzaro, Erin Irish, Sara Woods,
and Joanne Cousins, all donated their day to trim, shave and style our clients.
Food and beverages were aplenty, thanks to Max Downtown’s Pastry Chef
Warren Hardman, Park & Oak, Effie’s, Blue State Coffee, Zest 280, and Scott’s
To many of us, a haircut is just another blip on our schedule, but for folks who
don’t have the money to spend on a haircut, it can be a real game-changer. It is a
rare chance for them to sit, relax and accept a small dose of pampering, as well
engage in conversation and make contacts with those who may be able to provide
assistance. Our colleague, Debra Morton, had the pleasure of speaking to many of
our friends who are experiencing homelessness that day, as she drove them to
and from the salon. One of the gentlemen that Deb met had been searching for a
job in the restaurant industry. As luck would have it, she has many contacts in
that world, so she gave him her business card and the following day he sent her
his resume. We are thrilled to say that he is now a full-time employee at Savoy
Pizzeria and Craft Bar in West Hartford. The chance to engage, a small
connection, can sometimes be all that is needed, to make a real difference in
We are very excited to announce that the Melville Charitable Trust has awarded
$86,000 to Journey Home for its operations through June of 2018. In recent
years, the City of Hartford has allocated a similar amount to Journey Home
through its annual budget.
“Journey Home changes lives every day, and I am deeply gratified that thanks to
the Melville Charitable Trust their work will continue,” said Mayor Bronin. “As
the City has had to step back from funding events and programs we value, local
organizations have stepped up again and again. This is another demonstration of
the tremendous commitment and generosity we are fortunate to have in Hartford
and in Connecticut.”
“Journey Home is delighted and grateful to receive this support from the Melville
Charitable Trust. This grant makes it possible for us to continue our focus on
ending homelessness in Greater Hartford in 2017 and 2018. Systems will be
improved, positive changes will be made, and lives will be transformed because of
this award. We are pleased that this grant will fill a gap for this year, but we do
continue to have concerns about sustaining this funding going forward. We
appreciate and understand the tight fiscal constraints that are facing the City of
Hartford and we have greatly appreciated our partnership with the City over the
last several years. We are grateful for the efforts that the City of Hartford and
Mayor Bronin have made to ensure that we are able to secure funding for another
year to keep our vital services intact,” said Matt Morgan, Journey Home’s
Morgan continued, adding that, “Housing people who have experienced chronic
homelessness is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a wise investment in
our future. Study after study has proven that money spent on supportive housing
– housing where subsidies to pay for rent are combined with flexible, voluntary
support services – decreases the costs that we would otherwise spend to support
them in homeless shelters, hospitals, emergency rooms, jails and prisons.”
The focus of the work of Journey Home for the past 11 years has been finding
creative solutions to ending chronic homelessness. People who have experienced
chronic homelessness have been homeless for long periods of time and are often
the most ill and most likely to struggle through the processes to access housing.
Many have languished in the system for years and most are high utilizers of
incredibly expensive public services. Working with outstanding partners
agencies, the Hartford region has witnessed an almost 50% decrease in chronic
homelessness over the past two years.
The Melville Charitable Trust is the largest foundation in the U.S. exclusively
devoted to ending homelessness. The Trust invests in proven, lasting, and costeffective
solutions that enable people with the least resources and biggest barriers
to success to reclaim their lives. And where solutions have not yet been identified
they support exploration and innovation to find the most promising approaches.
The Trust’s grantmaking dollars are roughly split between efforts to end
homelessness in their home state of Connecticut and in creating a better policy
environment at the national level. Since their founding in 1990, they have
invested over $140 million to end homelessness for good. Learn more at