Last month, a major milestone was reached in Fairfield County for ending chronic homelessness. Local providers that are part of a collective movement called Opening Doors of Fairfield County were successful in a nation-wide challenge called 90 in 90. It consisted of matching 90% of people verified as chronically homeless with housing resources within 90 days. Beginning in July, local providers have been able to identify, assess, prioritize and match 80 of the most vulnerable people to appropriate housing resources.
Chronic homelessness, as the adjective suggests, means people have been homeless for a long time. HUD defines a chronically homeless person as one with a disability who has been continuously homeless for a year or has 4 defined separate occasions of homelessness over 3 years that add up to a year. Inherent in this population are multiple barriers - mental illness, physical disabilities, unemployment, that make it very difficult to sustain housing. However, by having a system in place for housing people with the right level of support, lives are successfully stabilized.
Housing the chronically homeless is a critical goal in Opening Doors of Fairfield County’s mission to end all forms of homelessness in the region by 2020. It is important because the chronically homeless represents 20% of the homeless population, but consume 80% of the homeless delivery services. By addressing this need, ODFC can then effectively focus on other populations particularly families and unaccompanied youth and young adults.
Ending chronic homelessness is a milestone that needs to be recognized here in Connecticut as nationwide regions have not been so successful. In fact, budget shortfalls caused the Obama administration to reset the original timeframe to achieve this goal to 2017. Across the nation, Zero:16 Campaigns, signifying the end of chronic homelessness by 2016, have been renamed to “Built for Zero”, to accommodate the shortfall.
But not in Connecticut. Regions throughout the state are on target to end this terrible human plight by 2016. This is a tribute to the collective will of committed providers and key partnerships. These partnerships include state agencies such as the Department of Housing and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services who effectively deploy resources to Connecticut regions and state agencies that include the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness and The Partnership for Strong Communities in providing leadership and guidance.
Opening Doors of Fairfield County is a regional movement of over 150 stakeholders working together to prevent and end homelessness in Fairfield County.