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Opening Doors to End Homelessness in Connecticut

Connecticut has a new plan to end homelessness.

Connecticut has a new plan to end homelessness. The state is the first in the nation to model its homelessness plan on the national Opening Doors strategy, which was developed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and has the distinction of being the first ever federal plan to end homelessness.

And just as Connecticut funders—including the Melville Charitable Trust―played a catalytic role in developing the previous state plan to end homelessness (called Reaching Home), many are now embracing this new opportunity to support innovation and creativity within a more comprehensive framework—one that goes beyond ending chronic homelessness to also ending it for families, veterans, and youth.

Plan Emphasizes Solutions, Results

Last year, the Partnership for Strong Communities, a statewide organization dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness, expanding affordable housing opportunities, and creating strong and vibrant communities, convened a coalition of non-profit organizations in Connecticut to develop Opening Doors CT to mirror the federal plan as informed by local conditions.

The Partnership brought together state policy makers, housing advocates, service providers, ten-year plan leadership, the health care delivery system, work force development, education, the business community, faith-based organizations, consumers and municipalities to work together, think outside the box and find the permanent solutions. Partnership Executive Director Howard Rifkin emphasized the critical nature of cross-sectoral buy-in to common language, common goals, and an emphasis on results.

A large, statewide Steering Committee is providing policy guidance and managing implementation of Opening Doors CT, while a smaller Coordinating Committee coordinates the process. In addition, specific strategies are being developed by four mid-sized Working Groups led by key practitioners:

Early “wins” in the campaign include an unprecedented two–year state capital commitment of $210 million in affordable and supportive housing; a $300 million, 10-year public investment in the state’s public housing portfolio proposed by Governor Malloy; and housing subsidies for 150 new units of supportive housing.

Funders As Catalysts

Just as the Partnership asked practitioners to stretch their boundaries to achieve better outcomes, funders in Connecticut are extending their reach to support a more comprehensive approach to ending homelessness. While the Melville Charitable Trust plays a significant role, especially through supporting the convening power of the Partnership, other Connecticut funders are deeply engaged with the work of ending homelessness in their individual communities.

Shout-outs are due, in particular, to the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County its early investment in rapid re-housing models, and to the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving for supporting the increased use of data to drive results.

I encourage funders at the national, regional, state, and community levels to consider investing in similar campaigns. Regardless of how these efforts are organized, or whether they emerge as state initiatives or from the non-profit sector, philanthropy can and should be a catalyst for the work ahead. The initiation of an “Opening Doors” campaign is one way―and, in our experience, a good way―to re-energize our communities to assess their progress, expand their vision, and establish new partnerships to end homelessness.

If we are smart about it, entrepreneurial enough, and willing to act with a sense of urgency, we are in a better position than we have ever been to effectively end homelessness in this country.

 Ann Woodward is the Chief Operating Office of the Melville Charitable Trust.

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