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
One of the greatest assets that the Greater Hartford Coordinated Access Network
(GH CAN) has is our navigators. Navigators are assigned to those who are
believed to be chronically homeless and assist them with becoming “document
ready”. Which means they obtained all the documents necessary for housing.
Our navigators work with a variety of folks of who have a number of challenges
and are sometimes met with situations that have not been encountered before.
Alicia Akers, one of the GH CAN navigators, can attest to the variety of barriers
she has experienced while working with those experiencing homelessness.
Alicia was recently working with a gentleman experiencing homelessness who
only spoke Polish. Because Alicia did not speak one word of Polish, she knew she
would need lots of assistance in helping this individual. One thing was certain,
she wasn’t going to let a language barrier get in the way. Using some very creative
thinking she decided to reach out to the Polish community in Hartford and was
able to make contact with Father Henry, pastor of Saint John the Baptist Polish
National Catholic Church in Manchester. Father Henry offered his time as a
translator between Alicia and her client. He assisted her with scheduling
meetings and completing paperwork. He also arranged contact with Alicia and
the polish consulate so that the could obtain his passport. Without Father
Henry’s assistance, the process of getting this man document ready would have
taken much longer.
Soon after Alicia was able to secure all of the necessary documents for him, she
was assigned another individual who was a refugee from Ukraine. This gentleman
had an array of medical issues and was sleeping under a bridge and in hallways in
abandoned buildings. Alicia desperately wanted to help this man. While in search
of third party evidence of the client’s time sleeping outside, she was able to
connect with the client’s probation officer. Not only was the client’s probation
officer able to verify his homeless history, she also translated all of his paperwork
that was vital to his housing process. Once again, without the officer offering
assistance, the process would have been greatly delayed.
People working together for the common good. How incredible is that? All of us
have a deep appreciation for the many people committed to our work and
Here at Journey Home, we have continued working hard on the Coordinated
Access Network (CAN), which is the system of accessing homeless services in our
community. For over a year, one of the big goals of the CAN has been to
coordinate all the family service providers, including shelters, outreach services,
and housing programs. Our community has come together, and we now have a
committee that meets every two weeks to collaborate on issues of family
homelessness. In the past year, it became clear that families in our shelter
system could often benefit from clinical supports, but it isn’t always easy to get
people connected to these services while they are homeless. Then, a new partner
joined our work this past February — Atlas Behavioral Health.
Atlas Behavioral Health is a private organization based in Hartford dedicated to
providing clinical services to families experiencing homelessness. Their
behavioral health services are a partnership with local community programs in
CT, and the team at Atlas has already provided a wealth of assistance to some of
our most vulnerable households. The services that Atlas has provided includes
intake for households in crisis, in-house counseling, and group therapy based in
the shelters. They have also been an asset in collaboration to help complete
diagnosis paperwork for households with serious behavioral health concerns who
struggle with getting services at other organizations.
Atlas has joined our community’s family housing matching meetings, where they
are able to take referrals for services. Their clinicians have already started by
taking tours, and doing in-house visits to some of our local shelters to determine
the necessary clinical services for residents. The help doesn’t stop at the shelters.
The team at Atlas Behavioral Health has continued to offer, and provide much
needed support services to families as they transition back into housing in the
Having these services so readily accessible to the Greater Hartford community
has been an incredibly needed resource. Gerilyn Harrison, case manager at the
Salvation Army Marshall House shared that “Atlas has been a pleasure to work
with. The clinicians are all very friendly and professional and their response time
to referrals is impressive.” We are so excited to have Atlas as a partner in our
CAN, and look forward to seeing what this partnership will bring in the future!
Sometimes life needs to take its twists and turns in order for us to find home. And some of the twists can be beautiful and those turns can be messy. But, we need them to get us to the place where we are.
Kenneth experienced the twists and turns of life. A beautiful son who he is completely devoted to in every way. An abusive relationship he needed to escape that was marked with mental health issues. Beautiful and messy.
Leaving the relationship meant losing his home. Staying in the relationship meant further abuse. He chose the former, but it was not a simple decision. Being homeless meant disconnection from his almost grown son and living in a Hartford shelter meant he was not readily available for that son who was living in Springfield, Massachusetts. Kenneth made the decision to leave the shelter and live in the woods of Enfield. Enfield would keep him close to the services he needed and keep him close to his son who needed him.
So, there is where he stayed. In the woods of Enfield on the banks of the Connecticut River. For years. His situation was less than ideal, but he made it work for him. A local police officer befriended him, outreach workers provided what they could. Summers and falls and winters and springs passed and Kenneth remained in those woods. His case was complicated and his options were few. That was until Coordinated Access Network Navigator, Kelly Gonzalez, met him in November of 2016.
Kelly reached out to Kenneth and he very quickly told her that while he wanted to be housed, abandoning his son was not an option. Kelly helped him understand that finding a home would probably allow their relationship to reach a whole new level. Kelly reminded him that caring for oneself helps us care for others. With that knowledge, Kenneth made the decision to begin the process. He had all of his necessary documents for housing in less than a month and, on January 3, Kenneth was matched to one of Community Renewal Team’s permanent supportive housing units.
Kenneth is all moved into his new home. He has food and furniture and a place for his son. Twisting and turning gets us to where we need to be. The beautiful and messy of life brought Kenneth right where he needed to be — home.
On most days, the Atrium at CityPlace is a large, beautiful space through which people flow to and from work. But on February 10th, in a few short hours, this soaring space was transformed into a scene of dazzling twinkle lights, enticing aromas and festive games. As this beautiful room filled with over 325 guests, we were able to raise over $180,000 towards ending homelessness in the Greater Hartford region. Truly amazing!
Let me set the scene for you…Max Downtown, our very generous partner, provided the food for the evening, with a raw bar, mac and cheese bar and delicious Dim Sum station. Powerstation Events pulled out all of the stops with their incredible sound and video system, DJ and fun photo station. Hartford Flavor Company and New Park Brewing teased our guests with fine samples from their cellars, NoRA Cupcakes delighted everyone with their sweet treats, and Munson’s Chocolates tempted guests with boxes of chocolates and a chance to win a diamond necklace. We were also fortunate enough to hear from Mayor Luke Bronin. For sure, our 2nd Annual Home is Where the Heart Is Gala did not disappoint.
If you have ever planned a gala or any large gathering, you also know that it takes many, many hands to execute a successful event. We feel so fortunate to have so many incredible partners and friends that made this evening super special. Thank you, thank you to all of our sponsors, donors, staff, volunteers and our guests who made this evening so amazing!!
The Joys of Truly Making a House a Home: My Story as a Journey Home Volunteer By Rosemary Keogh O’Neill
It all started because I was upset after the November election and needed to do something. So I signed up to provide a Thanksgiving meal for a Journey Home client. We made a turkey and all the fixings for Ulysses in East Hartford so he could host his daughter and granddaughter for the first time since he got his Journey Home apartment.
It was a great experience so I signed up with Journey Home again at Christmas to help someone else. This time I was assigned to Fatima, who has two children. I bought and wrapped toys and collected some household goods. When I asked her on the phone what else she needed, she said simply, “a mattress.” She had been sleeping on an old stained box spring with her two children.
Through the West Hartford community Facebook page, I found someone willing to donate a beautiful bed and I delivered the mattress to Fatima. But then I had a boxspring and frame with no home. So Journey Home directed to Rosa, who had been sleeping on a mattress on the floor. I brought her the box spring and frame and found out she needed so much more. She is raising three young children (two of whom are autistic), is working and is going back to school.
With all her needs, my quest became like a scavenger hunt. Through the same West Hartford site, I located a toddler bed and mattress, dressers, curtains and rods, children’s clothes, and blue candy (a specific request from her daughter). As I was contacting people and picking up items, I started meeting great people around West Hartford. They were so willing to help and interested in what we were doing. One mom explained to her son that his mattress was going to a kid who has no bed.
As I picked up a table from a woman in West Hartford, she handed me a small bag of skin care products for myself to thank me for what I was doing. Wow.
The delivery to Rosa and her family was hard work, but so rewarding. My husband and I rented a truck and lugged all the stuff up to her third floor apartment. We gave her a gift card and asked if there was anything else we could do. She said, “I don’t know how to even thank you. I don’t even know where you came from but I just feel so blessed.” And she hugged us both. What a reward.
Next, we “adopted” Sue, who had been in her apartment with her son for a month. When she told me she had nothing, she wasn’t kidding. It was empty except for her bed and one for her son. Again, we started searching around West Hartford and hit pay dirt. We got a kitchen table and chairs, sofa and loveseat, a television, sheets and towels and dishes, books and clothes for her son. Stephano was thrilled with the books – and, yes, even more by the TV.
Since Sue didn’t need a bed we had located, we took that over to Nathaniel in East Hartford and set that up. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a bigger hug in my life.
I was telling these stories to my 86-year-old father on the phone one night, jazzed about how great it felt to be doing all this. He said “I am so proud of you.” We’re not really an emotional family, and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I remember him ever saying that to me. The next day, he sent me $500 to give to my Journey Home friends. Wow again. The circle never ends.