Columbus House worked with other agencies throughout New Haven and the Rapid Results Institute to establish a Coordinated Access Network (CAN); a system through which clients are housed more quickly and efficiently by breaking down barriers inherent in the old system. Our focus is first on housing chronically homeless single adults, with the goal of ultimately getting to -0-.
Columbus House provides case management support to over 200 clients who are housed in permanent housing in the community, almost 50 of whom have been housed in the past year. These clients have come through the shelter or were identified through the street outreach team. Funding for housing is from federal and state programs.
Columbus House has committed to doing the work of Trauma Informed and Gender Specific Services through TAG, an initiative of DMHAS and the CT Women’s Consortium. TAG will help transform the culture of the agency through assessments, training and TA so that the values of choice, trustworthiness, empowerment, safety and collaboration become central to all aspects of the organization.
Because of our diverse funding stream in federal, state and local government contracts, multiple program & financial reports are required. We have also experienced a shift from grant funding to fee for service funding in some of the government contracts. This puts a substantial strain on program and business office staff, and will require an increase in administrative functions and costs to accurately manage.
In support of those administrative functions, the Business Department will need to enhance its capacity by migrating to a new and robust software system that can support this diverse and complex budget.
Columbus House owns 6 properties in New Haven, and all are aging, presenting us with significant capital needs. For instance, the first floor bathroom in the emergency shelter is in need of a gut rehab after 12 years of intense daily use.
Because of the growth of the agency, we will be looking for new office space for administrative staff which is currently housed in the main shelter building on Ella Grasso Boulevard. This will have a dramatic impact on the use of that main building, adding new housing options for people who are homeless.
General operating support is essential to sustain the core functions of shelter and services for people who are homeless.
Columbus House has a reputation across the Greater New Haven area for being a homeless shelter, which is the place also associated with many of our volunteer activities. But this organization has grown well beyond the front doors of the shelter and now offers a real continuum of services, from emergency shelter to permanent supportive housing. We now look beyond the immediate crisis of homelessness toward the solutions that will offer our clients a brighter future.
Along with our colleagues in the greater New Haven area, Columbus House has a commitment to ending chronic homelessness and Veteran homelessness in the next few years. We actively participate in regional and state workgroups and committees to design the policies and practices to accomplish these goals. There is strong support from all levels of government that results in new funding for innovative programs and new housing that will bring us closer to achievement.
These are lofty goals, but ones which keep us motivated and focused.
We know that a major component in the solution to homelessness is the availability of safe, affordable housing,and for some, that housing needs to be accompanied with supportive services. Columbus House has been providing permanent supportive housing since 1998, and we know that it works. With case management support, people stay housed and realize their own goals of maintaining their recovery, returning to work, reuniting with family and becoming independent.
Another key element of solving the crisis of homelessness is employment. For many, unemployment or underemployment led them to the shelter. We have a small but growing employment program within Columbus House and have been successful in opening doors to employment for many clients. However, there is a real lack of entry level jobs in this area, and despite our efforts, many clients are left out of the workplace. Without the development of new and sustained opportunities for employment in the Greater New Haven area, people will continue to fall into poverty and homelessness.
There is more work to be done and it is work that we cannot do alone. It is our constant desire to work with others both in New Haven and across the State who are working toward the goal of ending homelessness.
Our Boulevard shelter provides shelter for over 80 women and men, 365 nights a year, serving over 78,000 meals annually. We have a 30-bed emergency shelter for both men and women and a six-month length of stay program that can accommodate up to 39 individuals with beds reserved for Veterans and people living with HIV. Case management services include referrals to mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, employment training programs, health services, and housing.The Overflow Shelter for men is generally filled to its 75-bed capacity and beyond. This seasonal shelter located on Cedar Street serves clients with food, clothing, showers, personal care items, and case management services.
Our short term goals for the emergency shelters, Overflow Shelter, and Length of Stay (LOS) programs are to provide a safe environment where homeless adults and families will have access to shelter, food and clothing along with other basic necessities. Ultimately we would like to provide and have clients take advantage of a coordinated effort to access vital services through case management.
Our long-term goals for those coming through the shelters are to ensure that they re-establish and/or increase their income, apply for and receive entitlements, receive adequate health care benefits, seek and secure employment, and reunite with family where appropriate. Our ultimate goal is to help secure appropriate housing either in a transitional, supportive or independent setting. Approximately 50% of homeless adults who access one or more of the shelter programs go on to some form of housing.
Bruce had reached a turning point in his life. He realized he couldn’t go on living like this. He entered a recovery program for six months and was then referred to Columbus House.
“Columbus House staff told me what I would have to do and where I would have to go in order to start the process of getting my life back together,” he said.
Bruce stayed in shelters for nearly a year as he worked to put his life back together. He was referred to Cedar Hill, one of our permanent supportive housing facilities, where he has lived in his own apartment for three years.
Because of his leadership and dedication to his community, Bruce was awarded the 2010 Janice Elliot Supportive Housing Award by Reaching Home, a campaign to end long-term homelessness through supportive housing.
Capacity building to keep up with expanding programs is not always immediate, especially with limited access to funding for administrative support.
Columbus House has historically had a very active board, with members who are committed to addressing the issues of homelessness. They have grown just as the agency has grown to a more sophisticated level of governance that examines the big picture of the agency and the progress toward ending homelessness. Committees include the executive committee, finance and audit committees, housing committee, development committee and governance committee.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
Private fundraising has to make up the gap, and in these difficult economic times, there is no certainty that our efforts to increase those fundraising dollars will be successful. We have a strong track record, but balancing our budget from year to year is getting increasingly difficult. Today, even though unemployment is at an all time high, we are faced with raising salary levels to attract the appropriate level of staff to work with a difficult population and respond to the myriad and complex reporting requirements. Salaries alone are over $3million in this year’s budget and the cost of benefits continues to skyrocket.
A strong community not only meets its members’ basic needs but also works to create long-term solutions to their problems. Provide people with affordable housing, enough to eat and access to affordable health care and you enable them to envision a better future for themselves.
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