Executive Director, Partnership for Strong Communities
What is your greatest joy or what are you most proud of in your work?
Being a part of such a tremendous statewide collaboration and proving that it can work. Together, we’ve created lasting change in Connecticut to resolve an unacceptable social problem and helped to ensure safe, stable housing for thousands of individuals and families who were formerly homeless in the process. Through our efforts to end chronic homelessness over the past 14 years, we dramatically increased the state’s stock of supportive and affordable housing; improved identification, outreach and engagement; developed critical partnerships and collaboration, and created systems that can sustain our progress and be built upon to end all forms of homelessness.
Who or what inspires you to do your work?
The difference I’ve seen between people who have stable housing and those who do not. It reinforces how unacceptable homelessness is. I’ve seen how much it can demoralize and traumatize people and rob them of their basic human rights. I’ve also seen how it can dehumanize and marginalize them to others. We can do so much better than this as a society.
What is the biggest challenge in your work today?
With all the uncertainty at the federal level and Connecticut’s fiscal challenges, the main challenge is to preserve the resources we’ve grown for the movement, but also to keep a large group of diverse stakeholders unified, focused, creative and flexible to continue to maintain our progress and advance our goals. The more we can prove that our goals are aligned the greater collective impact can be achieved. We need to strengthen and accelerate our coordination with corrections, juvenile justice, child welfare, education, the workforce system, early childhood programs, health care systems and mainstream mental health services. We need to find a way to reimburse housing support services through Medicaid. And we need to double down on our affordable housing efforts, if we are ever going to be able to continue to advance. We have a quarter of a million households in our state who are severely cost burdened—paying more than 50% of their income on housing—and the vast majority have very low incomes. We need to reduce that trend as effectively as possible. The resources exist if there is the will.
What do you wish everyone knew about homelessness?
How damaging and costly it is for all of us and how it weakens the fabric of our society. The impact that homelessness has on a child’s trajectory is egregious. It negatively impacts their development and ability to learn. They are more likely to have lower school performance, more school absences, and are more likely to drop out, among other costly trends. For people with serious disabilities, it costs substantially more for them to be in homelessness, than to have access to a rental subsidy and service supports. Yet we still allow this problem to persist.