Innovative Housing Option Comes to Hartford

In partnership, Journey Home, the City of Hartford and Imagineers have implemented an unprecedented new preference in the City’s Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly known as Section 8). This preference is intended to create more affordable housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness (those with long term homelessness who also have disabilities). As the entity that maintains the By Name List of individuals experiencing homelessness in our region, and the entity that convenes all of the Coordinated Access Network agencies, Journey Home was perfectly situated to serve as the liaison between homeless service providers and Imagineers in the coordination of this program. Homeless services providers are offering those who have been in Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for many years (and who were previously chronically homeless), the chance to “move on” and become more independent through this program. This creates openings in the PSH programs that can then be offered to our chronically homeless individuals who benefit from the intensive support services attached to these programs.

In only three months, the initial result of this model has the potential to reduce chronic homelessness by 33%. The City of Hartford has now paved the way using this model and is helping us reach our goal of ending chronic homelessness in our community. It is this sort of innovative thinking that has created great costeffectiveness and has allowed us to become a city that is leading the nation in creative solutions to homelessness. As we work towards our Zero 2016 goal of ending chronic homelessness by the end of this year we are thrilled to have the City of Hartford and Imagineers make such a huge commitment to helping us get there!

It’s a Family Affair for the Pinettes

About a year ago, I noticed Facebook posts regarding Journey Home and Making a House a Home. As a family, we had been looking for an opportunity to volunteer our time together and are so glad that we chose Journey Home. The concept of combating homelessness and helping to provide the structure (literally and figuratively) is so very important to help others move forward and was exactly what we had been looking for.

The first task I did was to help to provide a Thanksgiving meal for a newly housed family. Baking while using several of my late grandmother’s recipes made the experience even sweeter as it brought back great memories for me as well. Soon after that we began to help collect furniture and household goods for Making a House a Home and were honored to be able to volunteer on our first “move-in” day shortly thereafter. It is almost indescribable the feeling we get when we help to transition a sometimes totally empty apartment into a comfortable living space. Equally as difficult to put into words is the looks and hugs of gratitude we get when leaving a new home.

During these deliveries, a new idea was developed. Many of the parents/caregivers we serve can’t afford the luxury of buying toys for their children. While on the surface toys aren’t a necessity, delivering a few toys, books, games, etc during move-in days would brighten the children’s days and would, for sure, be appreciated by the parents/caregivers. After just one Facebook post, the donations began pouring in and our basement has become the storage area for toys, games, puzzles, books, and more. A bag of age-appropriate items will be included in every delivery to a family with children. Our first such delivery is planned for this weekend and we cannot wait to see the looks on the children’s faces when we deliver each a bag of playthings!

We are so grateful to be able to be a part of this wonderful organization and have the opportunity to help to repair the world.

-Amy Pinette on behalf of the Pinette Family (Amy, David, Eliza, and Lillie)

How Can You Get Involved With Making a House a Home?

We are still finding homes for people at a very quick rate and the need to furnish these new homes is significant. The people that are currently being housed are moving from the streets or emergency shelters into apartments of their very own. Many of them have very few possessions and no furnishings. It is our hope that we can offer them not only a home, but also some basic necessities to help them get started.

We have seen amazing connections develop between clients and faith groups, families, businesses, and neighborhoods. Our hope is that more of these groups will come together to support those who are currently transitioning from homelessness to housing.

One volunteer summarized her experience by saying, “Being in the Real Estate industry, we see people buying, selling and renting homes every day and find gratification in helping them do so. But being a part of helping the Journey Home clients is beyond anything we have ever experienced. The appreciation our team at Coldwell Banker received and the joy we witnessed reminds us never to take for granted the value of a HOME! ” – Sherri K. Schwartz

On a recent Friday a group of four employees from The Hartford came together to deliver furniture and mattresses to 5 clients in the Hartford community. These four men were able to make a significant impact in the lives of others during just one morning of volunteering. It’s amazing how such small and simple acts make all of the difference.

This program is one of the first steps to help them get back on their feet, feel stable in their new home, and increase their quality of life. With our amazing volunteers and donors we are able to make sure that our clients don’t have to worry about how they will afford furniture or how they will sleep at night without a bed. Our Making a House a Home program may not solve all of their problems, but by receiving donations and bringing volunteers together to deliver furniture to these clients, we are giving them one less thing to worry about. Furniture and household goods allow the clients a more relaxing and comforting space they can call their own.

Both of our volunteer groups from Coldwell Banker and The Hartford were able to take a few hours out of their busy schedules to make a difference in the lives of people they otherwise may never have met. If more businesses, families, and neighborhoods could come together for a just a few hours, our community would be a happier place, where everyone can have a bed to lay their head at night. If you or your group would like to have this kind of experience to help someone in need, you should consider helping a chronically homeless individual or family. We would love to make that match for you! Please contact Alison Scharr at for more information.

The New Mercy Diversion Center is Now a Reality

On July 5th, Mercy Housing and Shelter Corporation launched a new “Diversion Center” program at St. Elizabeth House. Relying on best practices and successful outcomes, Mercy Team Members worked to design this program for nearly nine months to have it become a reality. The program was the idea of Mercy’s Executive Director, Dave Martineau. “I’ve worked in programs most of my life and I know the challenges people are facing to stay in their homes successfully”, said Dave Martineau. I knew if we could create a program that could help people navigate the obstacles, and remove the barriers for them; it would have a huge impact on moving them out of homelessness.” The program is designed to “divert” people from becoming homeless, or work to quickly get them back into housing. When someone loses their housing, they come to the City of Hartford seeking shelter, but in reality, according to a recent workshop hosted by Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, nearly thirty percent of the people in this situation can be diverted from this tragic outcome with minimal mediation. Often the solution can be overcome with little or no money to reverse the events leading to homelessness, saving thousands of dollars to the city and state.

Mercy’s Diversion Center provides an array of services designed to help the individual facing problems that have contributed to their current situation. This new program was created with an unprecedented collaboration of many programs in the City of Hartford. We are appreciative to the homeless providers that are sending staff to assist. These providers include: Journey Home, Salvation Army, Chrysalis Center, and Community Health Resources. “We are meeting with on average, twenty-five people per day who have been scheduled through 211 Infoline,” said Judith Gough, Associate Executive Director of Mercy. “Having these community providers involved moves the process along quicker. We have been overwhelmed by the need of the homeless community. As fast as we can meet with clients, more are contacting 211 Infoline to schedule appointments,” said Judith.

In Mercy’s new Diversion Center, Case Managers assess each person’s situation and determine what mediation is needed. In some cases, it might be calling a family member to bring them back together and allow the client to return to their home. While they are at St. Elizabeth House, clients can see a Nurse or Physician’s Assistant in the new medical suite staffed by Charter Oak Health Center. Clients can also enjoy a warm meal in the soup kitchen, or take a hot shower.

A few weeks ago the Diversion Center had a need for nonperishable food, undergarments, toiletries, and children’s clothing. “We had families coming in with children wearing the same clothing each day,” said Judith. She reached out to Mercy’s Development Director and a number of groups responded, offering to hold a collection and purchase items from a “Wish List” created on the popular Amazon shopping site.

Evonne Klein, Commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Housing, was recently asked about the success of Mercy’s Diversion Center. She said, “Mercy planned for months, working closely with our office along the way, to ensure that they would be able to effectively address the needs of homeless individuals and families in Hartford. We’re proud to support Mercy’s good work, which will have a lasting impact for years to come.”

Dinner in the Park

On a beautiful late July evening we gathered with our friends at Max Downtown and hosted our 3rd Dinner in the Park. We laid out the linens, prepared the salads, arranged the delicious sandwich wraps and waited for our friends to descend on Bushnell Park. Descend they did.

Over the course of an hour we handed out over 300 sandwiches. People from all over the city were able to join together to eat and converse and relax. We met new friends, connected with old, and made lots of introductions. We were also able to hand out over 250 pairs of socks from our friends at Bombas.

Dinner in the Park is also a fundraiser for Journey Home, but it’s a unique one. We are very intentional about the events we plan and we feel it is important that we always ask four questions as we plan our fundraising events:

● Does it build awareness around the issue of homelessness?

● Does it allow us to support our community partners?

● Are we giving back some way to the people we serve?

● And are we raising sufficient funds to keep our organization thriving?

Events like Dinner in the Park happen because of community partnerships and people working together. We continue to be very grateful for our friends at Max Downtown and Max Restaurant Group for the ways in which they support our organization. We are also grateful to all of you, our supporters. Sponsoring a dinner allows us to continue to do the great work that we are doing. Our next Dinner in the Park will be held on Saturday, October 29th at 5pm in Bushnell Park. More information about that event and how you can sponsor a dinner can be found here:

Zero: 2016 Progress

The Zero: 2016 Campaign to End Chronic Homelessness in Connecticut has been operating for almost 11 months now, and in that time new partnerships and collaborations have helped create major systemic changes.

In the past months, the Zero: 2016 Team, a dedicated group of frontline staff, have coordinated several events including a Landlord Recruitment Breakfast to develop new relationships with local landlords, a Document Fair aimed to help those experiencing homelessness collect essential identification documents required for housing. With the campaign under way for nearly a year, we have made huge strides towards housing more of our chronically homeless population. Since October, 2015, when the campaign began, more than 100 chronically homeless households have been housed. With only a few months remaining in the campaign, the team needed to collaborate with all of the staff who are doing the work of finding units, meeting with landlords, and negotiating leases to see where we could improve the process.

On Tuesday, September 27th, housing case managers and program managers from all over the Greater Hartford region met with the Zero: 2016 Team to brainstorm how we can speed up the process for housing chronically homeless clients. Some areas that have been challenging in recent months are locating handicap accessible units, working with households who had high utility bills, assisting with security deposits, and communication between agencies. Some of the successes they highlighted included housing clients extremely quickly, the beginning of the Diversion Center as a one-stop-shop, and new connections with the Polish Embassy, that has helped with obtaining identification documents. The group also highlighted the successes of Journey Home’s work to encourage collaboration. The group plans to begin hosting more regular landlord engagement events and create stronger partnerships with landlords in the efforts to end chronic homelessness.

Get Your Journey Home Gear Before it’s Gone!

Looking for a way to support Journey Home while looking good?  Pick up your End Homelessness Now t-shirt, long sleeve tee or hoodie before they’re gone.  Limited edition special going on now!  Click here to order your gear today.

Sometimes the Solution is So Simple: A Reflection by Mark Proft

Newly housed clients have a need to furnish their homes once they are settled, and most homeowners freely admit that they accumulate too much stuff over the years.  It seems so logical; just put the two together and the problem will be solved.  Well, those were our initial thoughts when St. John’s Episcopal Church volunteered to help Journey Home furnish apartments for a series of clients.  With the first email we sent to the members of the church, we received more than enough responses in the first 24 hours to furnish the first apartment. And over the past four months we have continually received calls from parishioners, their friends, and neighbors, who just heard about our work; all offering to donate furniture if we could just come pick it up.

Therein lies the challenge; the logistics.  Moving sofas and dressers down one or two flights of stairs, finding a truck large enough to hold an apartment full of furniture, finding volunteers who are available to work on weekdays when the social workers are available.  All of these obstacles had to be overcome to make this effort successful.

St. John’s volunteered to help a few clients/families because we felt we had just the right resources to solve these problems.  Parishioners donated all manner of furniture and kitchenware and then told their friends about the need.  The problem soon became that there were more donations than we could deliver.  Journey Home helped by providing some storage areas, and these filled up quickly.  The church also offered a garage and this too filled rapidly.  We found a few strong backs to do the heavy lifting, and then the community service group donated the funds needed to rent some trucks.  With these problems solved, we are thankful we have been able to furnish apartments for four homeless individuals and we hope to do many more.  But the more important learning from this project is that any group could accomplish the same with a little effort and minimal expense.

Document Fair

The Zero: 2016 Campaign to End Chronic Homelessness in Connecticut is gaining momentum with only six months left!  This campaign, geared towards improving local homeless services, celebrated a huge event on Friday, June 17th with a Homeless Document Fair hosted by My Sister’s Place.

People experiencing homelessness can often become trapped in the homeless services system because going into an apartment requires a lot of paperwork.  Landlords want to be able to prove someone’s identity, and that means keeping track of documents like a social security card, a birth certificate, immigration paperwork, photo IDs, and other kinds of identification.  In many cases, these documents can be misplaced or stolen, making the already difficult process of finding housing almost impossible for some.   This Homeless Document Fair was an effort to bring together agencies that provide these kinds of documents to set up a one-stop-shop for folks on the streets and in the shelters.

In attendance for the Document Fair there were representatives from the Department of Social Services, the CT Department of Public Health, The City of Hartford, the Social Security Administration, the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Court Support Services Division, the CT Department of Correction, the CT Department of Motor Vehicles, and Assurance Wireless.  Each of these vendors arrived with the goal of helping people to obtain these essential state and federal documents.  In addition to these vendors, volunteers also assisted with applying for out of state birth certificates, and clinicians were available on site to assist with mental health assessments.

Another barrier in obtaining documents is also paying the fees associated with replacing things like a photo ID or a birth certificate.  For the purposes of this fair, a generous donation was made by The Elizabeth Ferry Speer Foundation to ensure that fees would not stand in the way of helping people to obtain these essential documents.

With more than 50 volunteers, every client who arrived had a staff person to help them figure out what documents they still needed to obtain, and walk them through the event.  From the point at which people checked in until they received their Subway sandwiches, there were plenty of people around trying to troubleshoot difficult situations and provide support to the attendees.  More than 80 households were able to obtain some kind of documentation on the day of the event, and will be continuing to obtain more documents as applications are mailed out to local providers.

Other partner agencies include: 211, AIDS CT, Blue Hills Civic Association, Capitol Region Mental Health Center, Catholic Charities, Center Church, Charter Oak Cultural Center, Charter Oak Health Center, Community Health Network of Connecticut, Community Health Resources, Chrysalis Center, Columbus House, Community Partners in Action, Community Renewal Team , Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, Cornerstone Foundation Shelter, CT Department of Housing, CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Hands on Hartford, Hartford HealthCare, House of Bread, ImmaCare (formerly Immaculate Conception Shelter and Housing Corp.), Institute of Living, InterCommunity, Interval House, Loaves and Fishes, Inc., MACC Charities, Mercy Housing, Nutmeg, Partnership for Strong Communities, Salvation Army Marshall House, South Park Inn, St. Francis Hospital, Tabor House, The Network Against Domestic Abuse, The Open Hearth, Veteran’s Inc., YWCA, Town of West Hartford Social Services, The Connection, Dutch Point Credit Union, Department of Labor, AmeriCorps, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Kidney Foundation, Community Mental Health Affiliates A&A Office System, Subway

Haircuts for Humanity

On Monday, June 6th, Journey Home hosted the Second Annual Haircuts for Humanity.  Partnering with United Artists Salon in West Hartford, we set out to provide 50 free haircuts to people experiencing homelessness.  It was a beautiful day filled with laughter, hope, conversation, and healing.

The day began when Carlos of Post Road Stages in South Windsor arrived with a busload of residents from Soromundi Commons.  The women were greeted to breakfast on the patio, a Reiki healer, and the opportunity to make a fresh start with a new haircut.  Our 5 volunteer stylists lined up to begin shampooing and conditioning and trimming and clipping.  The salon was quickly abuzz with activity.

As each new busload of people arrived, so did their smiles and stories.  The entire Journey Home team was on hand to lend a hand or provide a listening ear.  People shared deeply about what this experience means to them — both those who are experiencing homelessness and those who spent their day volunteering.  All in all we were able to serve about 50 people — from toddler to senior citizen.  Short hair, long hair, beards, and everything in between, we did it all.

Our deepest thanks and appreciation goes out to so many local businesses who donated services to make this day possible: United Artists Salon, Post Road Stages, Arugula Bistro, Zest 280, Effie’s Place, and Blue State Coffee.  We also offer our sincere thanks to the many volunteers who spent the day giving back to the community in such a profound way. We are also grateful to all of the journalists who came out to witness the event firsthand.  And thanks to Fox 61, you can check out one of the great stories on the event here:

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