History and Mission
Opening Doors Fairfield County Mission
The mission of Opening Doors Fairfield County (ODFC) is to prevent and end homelessness in Fairfield County.
Through a Collective Impact approach, ODFC coordinates the strategies of prevention, housing, employment, advocacy and services to ensure that episodes of homelessness are rare, brief and non-recurring and that all citizens within the region have access to safe, affordable housing.
ODFC is a regional movement of over 150 stakeholders working to end homelessness in their communities.
History of ODFC
Establishing Continuum of Care Systems
Fairfield County has addressed homelessness since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was established in 1987 under the McKinney-Vento Act. Funding for homelessness includes HUD’s Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Grants, which provide Fairfield County with $8 million annually for housing and services supports. Funding allocation is done through a network of vested stakeholders known collectively as a CoC, which include service providers and direct HUD funding participants. HUD introduced the CoC concept to encourage and support local organizations in coordinating efforts to address housing and homeless issues and to reduce the number of homelessness in communities nationwide.
Creating Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness
In 2000, the Bush administration raised the bar with the creation of the Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), an independent federal agency composed of 19 cabinet secretaries and cabinet heads. The USICH charged communities to create Ten Year Plans that would hold communities accountable for their efforts to end homelessness. Additionally, a new mandate stipulated that communities accurately count their homeless for inclusion in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). In June 2005, the Greater Bridgeport region became the first community in Fairfield County to release its Ten Year Plan through a strategic partnership between the Mayor’s Office and the local United Way. The Ten Year planning process engaged local stakeholders and created public awareness of the problem while providing a framework to guide the CoC systems.
Implementing the HEARTH Act
On May 20, 2009, President Obama signed the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act. The HEARTH Act amended and reauthorized the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act with substantial changes. In many ways, the HEARTH Act was a game-changer in shifting the focus from individual program outcomes to a collaborative, community-wide system. In addition, the HEARTH created the first federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, setting forth a vision that no one living in the U.S. should be without a safe and stable place to call home. On June 22, 2010, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homeless released the Opening Doors plan, which serves as a road map for joint action by the federal government, state partners and local communities.
With the launch of Opening Doors - CT in March 2011, communities in Fairfield County consolidated the previously existing three Continua of Care [CoC] into one CoC known as Opening Doors Fairfield County [ODFC].