News

Whole Foods Giving Grill

We have some fabulous local partners in the Greater Hartford Area! We are thankful to all of those businesses including Whole Foods in Bishops Corner in West Hartford for their continued support of Journey Home. This summer we had two Giving Grill Fundraisers at Whole Foods where we raised over $600! This event included a grilled lunch where Whole Foods donated 100% of the proceeds to our organization. During both events, we were able to talk to those walking by about some of the programs we coordinate here at Journey Home, and also able to make further connections with past and present volunteers and donors, while hopefully also adding new volunteers and donors to our community. Events like these are a great way to work with local businesses and also meet new people in the community that may not have otherwise heard about what we do. We are on the lookout for more businesses to host similar events throughout the holiday season and into the New Year. These events are great opportunities to share the importance of what we do, acknowledge the great local businesses in the Greater Hartford area, and continue to work to end homelessness! Together we can end homelessness, together we can be the change!

We Do Advocacy, Too!

Advocacy is an important part of our work here at Journey Home. It has been a challenging year for many as our state lawmakers have spent months coming to an agreement on a budget. Instead of quietly hoping for a budget to pass, we joined forces with other nonprofits around the state for two powerful and very different advocacy efforts.

On August 30th, we joined forces with other nonprofit providers and made our way over to the Legislative Office Building to call on lawmakers to end the budget stalemate and pass a two-year budget. We didn’t demand just any budget; instead we demanded one that funds services for those in need. Gian-Carl Casa, president and CEO of the CT Community Nonprofit Alliance, said every month that goes by without a budget means an increase in the chance that a community provider will be shutting its doors. It also means fewer Connecticut residents will be receiving services.

Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, said not having a budget is worse.
“I’ve said it for weeks now. We need to bite the bullet and get the budget out and live with the consequences of what this budget shows,” Abercrombie said.
“Is it pretty? I’m going to be honest with you, it’s not,” she added. “It’s not a budget that I personally would like to see … but when people don’t want to be honest about revenue, this is the situation we’re in.”

Knowing that more needed to be done and that the conversation had to continue, we banded together a week later for a rally on the north lawn of the State Capitol. Around 800 people turned out to call on lawmakers and Gov. Dannel Malloy to end the budget impasse. “Pass a budget and protect services,” was the ringing cry throughout the morning. It was a powerful statement and one that shapes our work these days.

Most of the people who are served through our Coordinated Access Network in Greater Hartford are dependent on a state budget that includes them. And we see that part of our mission as a backbone organization is to get out there and stand alongside of our partners and demand action when action needs to be taken. It was a very powerful moment in our organization’s history to be rallying for justice and declaring that all of our voices must be heard.
So, advocacy? Yes, we do that, too!

New to You Thrift Store

This summer we were able to make a connection with Lois Coastworth at the New to You Thrift Shop, a local thrift and consignment store in East Hartford. It is a small operation, but one with a big heart! They have decided to help our clients in the Greater Hartford area that are experiencing homelessness or have recently moved into housing. They receive donations of household items as well as clothing and have created a voucher for those in the Homeless Service System to receive a few pieces of free clothing and accessories to help them get started during this difficult time. This store is sponsored by the Friends of East Hartford Senior Care Centers, Inc., a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise funds to support the programs and activities at the East Hartford Senior Centers. All proceeds from the thrift shop benefit East Hartford older adults through the senior centers. The volunteers here, including Lois, have found it in their hearts to not only support the senior centers, but also those in the Greater Hartford area that are experiencing homelessness. Lois and the volunteers at the New to You Thrift Shop have a strong commitment to homelessness, the elderly, and affordable housing. They understand the importance of services like the ones at the thrift shop and they are delighted to be able to provide help to those who are experiencing homelessness. All of us are connected and we are blessed to have a partnership with the New to You Thrift Shop, and look forward to continued connections in the future with them and others in the community!

Journey Home Receives $10,000 from United Bank & Charitable Society in Hartford Awards Journey Home $13,000

Journey Home Receives $10,000 from United Bank

To help raise awareness of the need to end homelessness in the Greater Hartford region and highlight the efforts of our work, our friends at the United Bank Foundation Connecticut presented us with a $10,000 check during “United Bank Night” on Friday, August 11 at Dunkin Donuts Park, the home of the Hartford Yard Goats.

“Journey Home’s mission is to ensure there is a home for all. But they can’t do it alone. Their success in ending homelessness in the region hinges on the continued generosity of corporate and community partners as well as the hard work and dedication of their volunteers. So when we heard about Journey Home and learned about the impact they’ve had in Greater Hartford over the past decade, we proudly joined the list of strategic partners who are helping them end chronic homelessness,” said William H.W. Crawford, IV, CEO of United Bank.

We are grateful for the support of the United Bank Foundation.

Charitable Society in Hartford Awards Journey Home $13,000

We are thrilled to announce that we have received a very generous grant from the Charitable Society in Hartford. The Charitable Society has been helping people in need in the City of Hartford since 1809. With their recent focus on homelessness, they invited us to apply for a grant.

This $13,000 grant will provide funding for housing implementation and stabilization. Funding for implementation and stabilization can really be monumental.

Funding for stabilization purposes is integral to a household who is moving into their first apartment in many years. Even small expenses can become huge issues for clients that can create real barriers to sustainable housing. A pool of funding to help manage these relatively minor financial burdens makes an enormous impact on the ability of our providers to help clients get into, and remain in, supportive housing.

People experiencing homelessness face barriers to obtaining housing that many of us take for granted. Implementation funding is used to assist people with obtaining photo IDs, birth certificates, and social security cards that may have been lost or stolen over the years. It pays for application fees to apply for housing units, to pay off utility arrears or to pay for security deposits, for clients who have no or very limited income and are not eligible for other programs that exist.

Once in an apartment the challenges continue. For many of these households these units might be the first lease they have ever held in their own name. They face the task of learning how to be a good tenant, how to manage their apartment to follow their lease while they often are also living with mental, behavioral and physical health conditions. Stabilization funding can be used to pay for lost keys, to help furnish apartments, to pay for everyday household products that many of us often take for granted. Stabilization funding is also used to provide these households with second chance opportunities by paying for damages they may have caused to the unit during this learning process.

We are so grateful to the Charitable Society in Hartford for their commitment to our work and mission!

Human Trafficking and its Impact in our Community

On Tuesday, September 26th, The Salvation Army provided a fantastic training on human trafficking awareness and response to service provider staff throughout the Greater Hartford community. We were able to send three of our Journey Home staff to the training held at Capitol Region Mental Health Center with trainer Krystal Ambrozaitis. It was a great training where our staff were able to learn a lot and bring back knowledge to share with our office.

The training covered a wide range of topics, including how to identify a victim of human trafficking, common terms of human trafficking, how to provide resources for the victims, and more. The topic of human trafficking is very relevant, not only to our staff in the field, but for all people through Connecticut, the United States, and the world. Many think of human trafficking happening outside of the United States, but this issue is happening in all 50 states.

There were many moments throughout the training that were shocking and troubling, but also very empowering. Through this training we were able to learn the knowledge to help prevent and recognize human trafficking. This event gave us the skills to make a difference in our communities.

Some of the surprising facts about human trafficking included that 1 in 3 missing persons will be approached by a pimp or trafficker within 48 hours, 1 in 6 runaway children becomes a victim of sex trafficking in the United States, and between 14,500 and 17,500 human beings are trafficked into the United States annually.

To learn more about Human Trafficking we recommend that everyone visit the Polaris Project website, which lists the 25 forms of human trafficking and has more information to become educated on how to prevent and stop human trafficking.

We would like to thank Salvation Army for equipping so many of us with the knowledge and tools we need to better identify and report human trafficking and how to connect victims to resources they need.

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.

Meet Frankie

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.

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