Over the course of the past year, HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS) housing programs across the capital region have been collaborating, and helping establish some national best practices for integrating HOPWA housing programs with homeless services.

The Greater Hartford and Central Connecticut housing programs for people living with HIV/AIDS have long been involved with the work of ending homelessness.  But although homeless service providers and housing programs for the homeless have been collaborating through our Coordinated Access Networks since 2014, the federal government has not provided a road map for how the HOPWA programs were supposed to collaborate.

Because the federal government has strict regulations around the operation of housing programs, all HOPWA programs are bound to adhere to their regional Consolidated Plan, which has historically required that all HOPWA housing programs maintain their own first-come, first-served waitlists. The HOPWA programs wanted to better serve the clients by having one centralized process, reduce duplication of services and be able to coordinate care more effectively than ever before.  Needing to get your name onto dozens of waitlists to see what opportunity came first – the old way of doing things – is extremely burdensome for someone experiencing housing instability. Our partners wanted to do better.

Over the course of the past year all of the HOPWA providers in our community have come together with Journey Home and funders from the CT Department of Housing and the City of Hartford to begin planning to update our local consolidated plan, and to create a shared, centralized waitlist that still meets federal requirements.  As of this winter, all HOPWA providers now have one common waitlist that all programs add applicants to, and whenever a vacancy arises in any HOPWA program in the capital region, it is filled by the next person on that waitlist. This may sound like an administrative change only, but in practice it means that people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness who are living with HIV or AIDS now no longer need to contact a half dozen organizations, get their name onto multiple waitlists, and update their contact information with many different organizations.  Now contact with any one partner can connect someone to all the HOPWA housing providers in the area, and allow them to be considered for the next opening in the community, rather than just openings through one provider. This is an amazing step for our community, and one that has been recognized as a best practice by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Our regional next steps will be partnering with the different service providers, like Ryan White case managers, who are assisting people with HIV/AIDS in the capital region to provide more training on this process.

Journey Home would like to thank all the partner agencies whose collaborative work has turned this idea into reality.  The HOPWA partner agencies are: Chrysalis Center Inc., Community Health Resources, Hands On Hartford, Human Resource Agency of New Britain, Mercy Housing and Shelter Corporation, Community Housing Advocates, Zezzo House, AIDS CT, the CT Department of Housing, and the City of Hartford.  As we move forward in this collaborative work, we hope to maximize all of our housing resources, and do an even better job of providing services to vulnerable people in the capital region.

If you or someone you know is at risk of homelessness and living with HIV/AIDS, you can find out more about the shared waitlist by contacting the partner agencies listed above.