In 2015, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to end homelessness for veterans and in 2016 it is on track to end chronic homelessness. While there are many factors that contributed to this hard-won achievement, one of the most important and most overlooked contributors was an unprecedented level of coordination across the state organized through the Reaching Home Campaign.
In 2010, the federal government released our nation’s first comprehensive plan to end homelessness. Opening Doors provided a roadmap for joint action, calling on federal, state, and local agencies to align their housing, health, education, and human services to meet this goal.
Each state was tasked with making this plan work for their residents. Fortunately, Connecticut was ahead of the game. Six years earlier, leaders focused on homelessness in Connecticut came together to create the Reaching Home Campaign as a coordinated effort to end chronic homelessness by increasing the number of supportive housing units in the state.
How could Connecticut build on the success of the Reaching Home Campaign to meet the Opening Doors challenge to end all forms of homelessness?
From HUD’s 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report
With the release of the Opening Doors Campaign, Reaching Home partners went to work to figure out how to adapt this plan to meet the unique needs of the state—hosting listening sessions, surveying stakeholders, and soliciting feedback from providers on the ground and policymakers in the government.
By 2012, the Reaching Home Campaign expanded and shifted from a focus on chronic homelessness towards seeking to end all homelessness in the state using the Opening Doors plan as a framework for change.
The Campaign is led by a group of over 130 advocacy organizations, government agencies (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Connecticut Departments of Housing, Children and Families, Education, Public Health, Labor, Mental Health and Addiction Services, Social Services, and Veterans’ Affairs), community providers, housing developers, and foundations, and is coordinated by the Trust’s grantee partner, the Partnership for Strong Communities.
The Reaching Home Campaign has four goals:
- End homelessness among Veterans by the end of 2015
- End chronic homelessness by the end of 2016
- End homelessness among families, youth, and children by the end of 2020
- Set a path to ending all types of homelessness
The Melville Trust’s Role
The Trust has provided the backbone funding of the Reaching Home Campaign since its inception. We support the work of many of the statewide organizations involved in the Campaign that work at the systems level to end homelessness. Staff of the Trust are aslo active participants in several of the Reaching Home Campaign committees.
More about Reaching Home Connecticut
By bringing together a broad spectrum of partners representing diverse sectors across the state to collectively build the political and civic will to end homelessness, Reaching Home has been incredibly successful so far. In just four years the Reaching Home Campaign has:
- Advocated for and secured over $300 million in state funding for programs to end homelessness and to create supportive and affordable housing.
- Conducted the state’s first study of youth experiencing homelessness and released the Opening Doors for Youth plan
- Ended homelessness among Veterans.
- Launched Secure Jobs, a pilot program to connect families receiving rapid rehousing with employment supports.
- Implemented a successful pilot that identifies and connects frequent users of emergency departments at hospitals to housing and supportive services.
A statewide effort like Reaching Home requires a highly organized structure to coordinate the work of the diverse organizations that are involved in the leadership and working committees. It consists of:
- Coordinator/Backbone: The Campaign is coordinated by the Partnership for Strong Communities, the “backbone” organization responsible for the the effort.
- Steering Committee: A Steering Committee comprised of over 60 individuals representing diverse sectors in the state guides the work of the Campaign.
- Coordinating Committee: A small Coordinating Committee of key partners representing 14 organizations, including staff of the Partnership, workgroup chairs, and key representatives of state agency representatives, provides guidance to the Working Groups and supports the Steering Committee.
- Working Groups: Seven workgroups (35-40 individuals in each group) spearhead the work of the Campaign and report to the Steering Committee.
For more information
Please contact Alicia Woodsby, Executive Director of the Partnership for Strong Communities: firstname.lastname@example.org