Forum Explores How To Implement Federal Homelessness Plan in Connecticut 

Deputy Director Jennifer Ho of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) was in Hartford on February 24, 2011 to provide an overview of Opening Doors, the Federal Plan to End Homelessness, to an interested audience of persons involved in efforts to address homelessness in Connecticut.  The well-attended forum included a cross-section of local, State, Federal, non-profit and private sector housing and social service providers.  Danbury was represented by Danbury Housing Partnership Chair Mark J. Nolan and Greater Danbury Continuum of Care Co-Chair Milena Sangut. 

The Federal Plan was developed under the supervision of the USICH, whose membership consists of the secretaries of Cabinet level Federal departments.  Ho’s presentation focused on how USICH could partner with State and local entities to support implementation of efforts to end homelessness in Connecticut.  The Federal plan includes five major themes necessary to successfully address homelessness: 

1.     To increase leadership, collaboration and civic engagement

2.     To increase access to stable and affordable housing

3.     To increase economic security

4.     To improve health and stability

5.     To retool the homeless crisis response system

Ho’s presentation was part of the Federal outreach effort to establish collaboration between Federal government agencies and State and local partners already hard at work in Connecticut addressing the needs of people facing homelessness.  Largely through the efforts of States and localities implementing Ten-Year Plans, great progress had been made in reducing chronic homelessness by one-third over a five year period and in establishing the infrastructure needed to begin to address the needs of veterans, families with children and seniors.  Ho noted, however, that the recent economic recession had increased the numbers of individuals and families experiencing homelessness despite the best efforts of those attempting to address the issue. 

Ho called on those present to re-dedicate and expand their efforts, promising that the Federal government was anxious to be a supportive partner in the effort.  Ho noted that addressing homelessness was not only the right thing to do; it was the practical and cost-effective thing to do.  In an era of budget challenges at all levels of government, Ho urged that local, state and federal partners work together to ensure maximum effectiveness of efforts to serve the needs of the people and communities involved.   Ho suggested that local Ten-Year Plan committees include representatives from Federal and State agencies as well as local government, private sector and non-profit sector representatives.

“It was encouraging to hear a positive message coming from USICH,” stated Danbury Housing Partnership Chair Mark Nolan.  “We will definitely be looking at expanding our outreach and membership over the next several months to build upon the success of the efforts we’ve made to date.  The recognition that affordable housing is at the core of addressing the issue of homelessness was the major theme we took away from the forum.”

The Federal Plan supports State and local findings that the provision of affordable housing and funding directed to preventing homelessness are essential to efforts to successfully address homelessness.  Nolan further noted that this could only be achieved in the current economic environment through cooperation of local, State and Federal partners.  The four additional major themes included in the Plan will be addressed in upcoming Partnership news updates.

For more information about the Danbury Housing Partnership please call Chair Mark J. Nolan at 203-797-8255 or visit www.danburyhousingpartnership.org.

For more information about USICH and the Opening Doors plan please visit www.usich.gov.

For more information about the Connecticut Coalition To End Homelessness please visit www.cceh.org.