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Homelessness Fund Completes Second Year, Receives Support From New Local Collaborative

As it nears its second year of operation, the New London County Fund to End Homelessness has provided rapid rehousing and shelter diversion services for a total of 204 households in the county—including 140 families with 286 children.  This news was reported on May 22 at a legislative briefing and press conference held at United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, the fund’s fiscal agent.  At the event, a collaborative grant of $33,500 was presented to the Fund from the Southeastern Connecticut Funders Collaborative, an alliance of eight corporate and philanthropic funders in the region.

The Fund was created in 2012 with a state grant of $250,000, and received an additional $250,000 from the Connecticut Department of Housing in 2013, thanks to the leadership of State Senator Andrew Maynard and the support of other legislators from Southeastern Connecticut.  United Way of Southeastern Connecticut serves as the grantee, sub-contracting with local nonprofit service providers to implement rapid rehousing services for homeless singles and shelter diversion and rapid re-housing services for homeless families in the region. The providers include Mystic Area Shelter and Hospitality (MASH), the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, Thames Valley Council for Community Action (TVCCA) and Norwich Human Services.

The partners in the Fund have developed a coordinated intake system that a homeless individual or family can access using the state’s United Way 211 Infoline as a portal. Once someone accesses the system, the partners work cooperatively to determine which provider is best equipped to offer services, and an assessment is performed to determine the best available solution. This may be shelter diversion, in which the provider assists the client in finding an alternative to shelter, such as staying with relatives or friends or providing financial assistance to immediately house the client; admission to emergency shelter and rapid rehousing, in which the provider helps to place the client in an apartment, using monies from the Fund to pay the security deposit, first month’s rent, or other necessary expenses. 

Service providers joined together at the event to share success stories as a result of the Fund, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and a coordinated intake system. “We view emergency shelter as a last resort, especially for families,” said Denise Collins, executive director of MASH, which focuses its services on homeless families.  “One of the best predictors for becoming homeless as an adult is time spent in a shelter as a child, so our priority is helping families to return to stable housing as quickly as possible.”  She added that one study revealed an incremental cost of $40,000 per year for each homeless child. 

Cathy Zall, executive director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, noted that the single adults served by her agency had seen significant success with the rapid rehousing model.  “Our research shows that well over 80% of our rehoused clients don’t return to the shelter,” she said.  “Getting even modest help to access stable housing gives people a foundation from which they are able to take the steps needed to retain housing.”

Some of the other results of the Fund include:

  • 104 singles were rapidly re-housed over the two year period.  Of those, only 7 returned to shelter in New London County.
  • The New London County Fund to End Homelessness used in conjunction with other rapid rehousing initiatives in the community has allowed 99 singles to be rehoused this year.
  • A total of 140 families, including 286 children have been served through the Fund.
  • 105 families, including 221 children were diverted from shelter.
  • 35 families, including 65 children were rapidly re-housed from shelter.
  • As of May 1, 2014, None of the families diverted from shelter have since entered shelter in Connecticut.
  • Only 1 family, out of 35, rapidly re-housed from shelter subsequently entered shelter.

Sue Murphy, executive director of the Liberty Bank Foundation, made the formal announcement of the $33,500 collaborative grant from the Southeastern Connecticut Funders Collaborative.  “We decided to make this grant to the New London County Fund to End Homelessness because we all believe it’s a good investment, in both human and economic terms,” she said.  “There is a sea change taking place in the way we address the problem of homelessness in our region.  Instead of putting people into shelters—a temporary solution at best—the Fund partners are implementing permanent solutions like rapid rehousing and shelter diversion, which provide people with the foundation to get back on their feet and take care of themselves.  It’s a no-brainer.”

Members of the collaborative are: Liberty Bank, Dime Bank, Charter Oak Federal Credit Union, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, Edward and Mary Lord Foundation, Pfizer Foundation, and SI Financial Foundation.

Nancy Bulkeley of Dominion Resources and a United Way Board of Directors member, pointed out the important role played in the Fund by the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut.  “As the fiscal agent for the Fund, the United Way is the glue that holds the partners together,” she said.  “Without the United Way’s capacity to manage, disburse, and account for the funds, that state funding would not be possible.  With them as the ‘backbone’ organization, the whole partnership operates like a well-oiled machine.”

Virginia Mason, president and CEO of United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, shared the news that the Fund has just been awarded an additional $250,000 state grant for fiscal year 2015.  “That’s fantastic news, because it means that this important work that is yielding such terrific result will be able to continue and serve more of our neighbors next year and advance the common good for all in southeastern Connecticut.”