At Journey Home, we are always talking about partnerships. We are fortunate to have so many dedicated partners in our region; with whom we work every day. The same can be said about our annual gala, Home is Where the Heart Is. With the help of our many partners, we raised over $192,00 to help END HOMELESSNESS.
On Friday, February 9th, in the twinkling CityPlace Atrium, over 325 guests gathered to enjoy delicious New Orleans-style food by Max Downtown, which included seafood gumbo and jambalaya. Litchfield Distillery and Hartford Flavor Company were on hand with tastings of their small-batch beverages. For those with a sweet tooth, NoRa filled an entire table with their adorable mini-cupcakes. As guests enjoyed their signature cocktails, surveyed auction items, and spun for wine prizes, Powerstation Events kept everyone going with lively music, beautiful uplighting and a fun photo station.
We were so lucky to have, as our Mistress of Ceremonies, Renee DiNino of iHeart Radio. Renee is one of the most community-minded individuals that you will ever meet, constantly working to help our four-legged and two-legged friends, in all of Connecticut. Our guests enjoyed mingling with Renee throughout the evening, and she did an amazing job helping us to exceed our fundraising goals.
With the help of these partners, our incredibly talented Journey Home staff, and our generous guests, donors, and our sponsors, our Home Is Where the Heart Is gala has exceeded all expectations once again. We couldn’t be happier to hear that so many people love coming to our gala, as it takes so much hard work, and benefits so many of those in need. A multitude of thanks goes to all who volunteered at our event, especially the HYPE crew, and of course our amazing and talented gala committee, as they work tirelessly for months to create such a unique and special night. We can’t wait to see what they come up with for next year! See you then!
We have previously shared with all of you, our friends and supporters, about the great work at Mercy Housing and Shelter Corporation’s Diversion Center. We wanted to be sure to update you on the work and progress of the Diversion Center. What is happening over there is incredible. As a system, we are addressing homelessness in a much different way. The work of the Diversion Center is proof of that. We asked one of their board members, Don Shaw, if we could share an article he wrote about the Diversion Center. Interestingly enough, Don also served as an analyst in developing “Hartford’s Plan to End Chronic Homelessness by 2015”; and he represented Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity in the development of a subsequent implementation plan called “Journey Home — The Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in the Capitol Region”
On July 5, 2016, Mercy Housing and Shelter Corporation (Mercy) welcomed its first clients to its newly created Diversion Center at St. Elizabeth House on Main Street in Hartford. Faced with diminishing federal and state financial support for Mercy’s long-established transitional housing programs, Executive Director Dave Martineau, now retired, and current ED Judith Gough led a nine month multi-organization collaboration to develop an aggressive “up front” program designed to immediately divert people away from homelessness.
The Diversion Center’s goal is to find its clients safe, stable housing rapidly. “Nearly thirty percent of people in this situation [of being homeless] can be diverted from this tragic outcome with minimal mediation,” according to Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness workshops. “Often the solution can be overcome with little or no money to reverse the events leading to homelessness,” saving Hartford and Connecticut thousands of dollars.
According to Stephanie Corbin, Mercy’s Shelter Diversion Coordinator, the diversion process is best described as highly responsive “front door triage.” It provides personalized solutions with accompanying emotional support aimed at mitigating the problems leading to a client’s crisis. It’s all accomplished at the Center in centralized coordination with several Hartford based agencies serving the homeless, including Journey Home, the Salvation Army, Community Health Resources, and the City of Hartford. Corbin emphasized that the key to successful client outcomes is case manager creativity. The solution for each client must address the direct question, “What do we need to do right now to keep you out of the shelter system?”
To counsel people in crisis quickly and directly, a collaborative team of case managers from Mercy, the Salvation Army, and Community Health Resources staff the Center every week. People seeking the Center’s support first call the 211 Infoline, which initially assesses the caller’s need for services, and then, as deemed appropriate, schedules an appointment for them to see a Center case manager within 24 to 48 hours.
Opened just twenty months ago, Mercy’s Diversion Center is still in its formative stage, yet its results to date are encouraging. In fiscal year 2017, 2,577 individuals were seen by a case manager. During that period 456 were diverted from homelessness, sixty-two of whom were between the ages of 18-24, and 124 required limited financial assistance that helped them avoid homelessness. Further, 1,244 people, whose cases were not readily resolvable, were referred directly to city shelters, and the remaining group were either referred to other area programs, or were deemed ineligible for assistance.
With one full year of experience, and a second well underway, the Diversion Center has charted a path for other agencies serving the homeless to follow, and to improve upon collectively. It’s a path the Connecticut Department of Housing strongly endorses. It’s a path leading to life saving diversions.
Community Renewal Team (CRT) is a non-profit community action agency dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty. CRT has a proven record of helping women. Last year 59% of CRT’s 86,067 clients were women and 31% of the families served were headed by single mothers. Their mission is to help even more women by developing the Women’s Empowerment Center that will mentor women for personal, career and economic success. CRT’s experience in working with families has prompted them to open a Women’s Empowerment Center to enable women to help them establish economic stability and be successful in their careers in order to provide for themselves and their children.
In December of 2017 CRT hosted a focus group with women from Hartford to better understand how the Women’s Empowerment Center can serve low-income women. These women shared insights in to the barriers they are experiencing to providing for their needs as well as the needs of their families.
Based on this they have developed a three-pronged approach to their vision:
- A hotline for the Women’s Empowerment Center will serve as a safe and open place for women from Hartford and Middlesex counties to access services that CRT provides.
- In the coming year CRT’s Women’s Empowerment Center hopes to take applications from women across the Greater Hartford region to be in a pilot class of 10 to 20 women. These women will receive case management services from CRT and each will be paired with a mentor who will provide one-on-one guidance and support as well as participate in the classes and trainings. The goal of the mentorship is to help women establish meaningful, long lasting relationships with other women who can provide resources and support along their journey. The focus is on supporting financial literacy, career and workforce readiness, as well as to teach women to use the power of their voices to share their stories in order to advocate for changes in policies and programs to better serve their needs and intended purposes.
- CRT’s Women’s Empowerment Center will provide workshops throughout the Hartford and Middlesex Counties that will be open to the public on topics that are relevant to personal and career development and financial literacy. These workshops will be networking opportunities open to all women because they are an essential part to bridging the gaps across economic barriers.
The ultimate goal is to see the women who participate in the Women’s Empowerment Center to thrive, and hopefully serve as mentors for other women in the future. You can support this great initiative by attending their upcoming event on Wednesday, May 2nd at 5:30 at the Gershon Fox Ballroom. For more information and tickets, please visit: http://www.crtct.org/en/events/crt-womens-empowerment-center-fundraiser
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 protected]
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!