The City of Hartford has seen some major changes to the downtown landscape in the past few years. With new housing developments, restaurants, and shopping centers coming downtown, the city has been experiencing a lot of changes. At Journey Home, we’re seeing some big changes too. One thing we have seen is a decrease in chronic homelessness, as more of our long-term homeless neighbors finally obtained housing during the Zero: 2016 Campaign. And while we know that a lot of great work has happened to help reduce the number of folks permanently living outside, the downtown business improvement district recently reached out, hoping to be a part of ongoing solutions to those sleeping in the streets.

In February, Journey Home was offered the opportunity to sit down with representatives from the Hartford Business Improvement District (HBID), the Hartford Police Department, and Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs (HYPE) to talk about new ways for the downtown businesses to partner with communities serving the homeless in our city. Partnerships with business improvement districts have proven essential to combating homelessness in many metropolitan communities.

Part of HBID’s team includes Ambassadors, who do everything from provide local security services, to shoveling out bus shelters, to beautifying local parks. One thing that they aren’t as famous for is their interactions with folks experiencing homelessness. With boots on the ground in the city, the HBID Ambassadors have been informally working with some of our homeless outreach workers for years. The next step is to strengthen these relationships, and incorporate the ambassadors as another possible branch of our outreach efforts. This meeting provided a forum for training about the Coordinated Access Network of homeless services in Hartford, and was a forum to start important conversations. The representatives from the Hartford Police Department shared anecdotes of homeless neighbors they have known for a long time, and the HYPE representatives inquired about how to troubleshoot issues with any 211 calls.

Though this partnership is still new, the Business Improvement District is already showing great support, offering to join in with the monthly homeless outreach meetings to collaborate on housing solutions for homeless neighbors. The interest doesn’t stop there, though. The Hartford BID has also committed to helping our local outreach teams generate new marketing materials that all homeless outreach teams could share with those who are in need of services. It is a wonderful new partnership!