Fairfield County Homeless Services System Presented to State Legislators

Fairfield County homeless providers met with state legislators from both parties Monday morning to discuss preserving state funding of services coordinated across the region through a system called the Coordinated Access Network, or CAN.

 (Left to Right) State Senator Ed Gomes, State Senator Tony Hwang, and State Representative Ezequiel Santiago were among the 7 legislators in attendance.

(Left to Right) State Senator Ed Gomes, State Senator Tony Hwang, and State Representative Ezequiel Santiago were among the 7 legislators in attendance.

Addressing state legislators at the Margaret Morton Government Center, stakeholders from across Fairfield County spoke with one voice on the impact of homeless services funding in the region. The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness and the Partnership for Strong Communities, key state agencies, were also represented.  Working collaboratively through the CAN, providers have created a single-point of entry system to move people from homelessness to housing, significantly reducing both short term and long term community costs.

Opening Doors Fairfield County (ODFC) Co-Chair, Adam Bovilsky, explained to lawmakers that “wrap around support services coupled with targeted housing interventions are far less costly on a per night basis to the taxpayer than repeated emergency room visits, ambulance runs, jail stays, and foster care.”

The event featured a short video on the CAN process and a panel discussion by representatives of key system components that included outreach, 211, CAN intake, diversion, housing placement process and programming options.  The event demonstrated how regional providers are collaborating at unprecedented levels to outreach residents who are experiencing homelessness and connect them to appropriate services based on individual needs.

This coordinated system has reduced costly service duplication, and allowed providers to prioritize those in need of services based on their vulnerability. Since implementing the CAN, Fairfield County has ended veteran homelessness and is poised to end chronic homelessness in the next months.

“The system is working,” said David Rich, Co-Chair of ODFC, “but we must preserve, protect and defend state funding to ensure that these critical resources remain available. The system is fragile in that each component is intricately linked to the success of the whole.  The alternative is a backslide to increased street homelessness and the use of costly community services by high need individuals on the taxpayers’ dime. It is not only the most efficient use of the county’s limited resources; it is the right thing to do. “