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-. In FY16, Columbus House, along with state and local partners ended Veteran homelessness in the State of Connecticut. The next goal by December 31, 2016 is to end all chronic homelessness.
Columbus House provides case management support to up to 300 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.
Columbus House is committed to implementing Trauma Informed and Gender Specific Services(TAG), an initiative of DMHAS and the CT Women’s Consortium. The goal is to transform the agency's culture via assessments, training and technical assistance so that values of choice, trustworthiness, empowerment, safety and collaboration are embedded throughout 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 Finance Department staff, and will require an increase in administrative functions and costs to accurately manage.
Columbus House owns 6 properties in New Haven, and all are aging, presenting us with significant capital needs.
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.
While Columbus House is known across Greater New Haven for being a homeless shelter, we have grown well beyond that to now offer a continuum of services, from emergency shelter to permanent housing. We can look beyond the immediate crisis of homelessness toward solutions that offer people a brighter future.
This year, the Governor’s office announced that as a state, CT has ended chronic homelessness and homelessness among all Veterans. That does not mean that there will never be another homeless Veteran. It means that the system of care can move a Veteran who is homeless out of the emergency system quickly into more stable housing.. Columbus House has actively participated in regional and state committees to design policies and practices to accomplish these goals.
The goal ahead is to end chronic homelessness for individuals and families. With strong support from all levels of government, there is new funding for innovative programs and housing that will bring us closer to achievement. Columbus House works closely with other agencies in the state to reach this audacious goal.
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. To date, we provide housing and supports for close to 400 individuals and families across the state.
Another key element of solving the crisis of homelessness is employment and income support. For many, unemployment or underemployment led them to the shelter. We have a growing employment program that has been successful in opening doors to employment for many clients. We also SOAR specialists on staff who assist clients in obtaining much needed SSI or SSDI through an application process designed for people who are homeless. Between the employment staff and our SOAR staff, we have assisted hundreds of clients to obtain an income that will support their independence.
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.
The Board of Directors of Columbus House includes 16 members who are dedicated to this agency and to the mission of serving people who are homeless. Members represent faith communities, healthcare, private industry, education and small businesses, meeting monthly as a full board, and in committees regularly. The talent and expertise that board members bring to the organization contribute to sound oversight and thoughtful direction of Columbus House. Guided by the Strategic Plan and in partnership with the staff leadership, the Board actively participates in fund development, governance, housing development and agency expansion.
I currently serve as the Board President and find that this work fits well with both my professional and personal commitments to solving issues of homelessness. I am passionate about the work of Columbus House on a local level and its overriding mission to end homelessness on a statewide level. The leadership and staff are tireless advocates for policies and initiatives that address this societal issue at its root causes, while working with individuals to deliver person centered services that will meet the specific needs of those in our community who are most vulnerable.
Columbus House has grown from providing a simple shelter bed in its early years to now serving 2500 people annually through services that span from street outreach to permanent housing. Our services extend from New Haven to New Britain, out to Waterbury and into New London. Recently, we acquired the Wallingford Emergency Shelter program where we'll be offering shelter for both families and single adults. In Middletown, we offer family shelter, street outreach, permanent supportive housing and Rapid Rehousing. The City is also the hub for our state-wide Support Services for Veteran Families, serving over 500 veteran families each year with housing, employment and case management services.
Columbus House has been and remains part of the growing commitment across the state to end homelessness for particular populations. I was proud that we were part of the effort to end homelessness for veterans. Not that there will never be another veteran who is homeless but there have been extensive changes made to the system of care to the extent that a person’s experience of homelessness will be brief as we move people into appropriate housing more efficiently than in the past. We are now on the path to end chronic homelessness by the end of 2016, a monumental task in CT.
Challenges? Of course. We have suffered through the cuts to state budgets this past session and expect more to come. Balancing a reduced budget while still providing the same level of services puts pressure on all of our staff. But we stay committed to doing the best we can with the government funding and philanthropic support that we do have. As always, we are grateful for our donors and friends who join us in that commitment.
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 serves clients with food, clothing, showers, personal care items, and case management services. In addition, the Abraham's Tent program provides shelter, meals and social times for 12 individuals during the winter months.
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.
Every year we worry that local, state and federal budget cuts will have deleterious effects on the bottom line of the financials of Columbus House. This year has been particularly challenging due to the economic conditions in the State. Despite our best advocacy efforts, we felt the impact of state budget cuts. Our prison reentry program, funded by the state Dept of Corrections, was completely eliminated, resulting in loss of services to 100 people coming back to the community after serving their time. Eight staff across 3 agencies in this collaborative program were handed lay-off notices. In addition, Columbus House was handed a 5.75% cut to our services funded through the Dept of Housing, effecting multiple programs. We anticipate this year, FY17, to be no different, and are braced for additional cuts.
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. Salaries alone are over $3 million in this year’s budget and the cost of benefits continues to skyrocket. This, coupled with operating costs, make for a challenging financial balancing act. Columbus House must constantly seek to provide superior financial management through staff and board oversight to deal with these challenges.
Despite this, we continue to be innovative and hopeful, bringing in new programs that provide extraordinary care for people experiencing homelessness. One recent example is the Medical Respite program, which provides recuperative care for people leaving the hospital. With a private room in the shelter, regular visiting nursing services and intensive case management, this program has proven to enhance the health and overall quality of life for people, has proven to reduce recidivism rates to both emergency department and in-patient hospitalization, and has proven to save money for the state in Medicaid reimbursements. We are working with state advocates and partners in other regions to expand Respite programs in other urban centers.
Columbus House recently acquired the assets of the Wallingford Emergency Shelter and will now provide program oversight to those shelters, including a family program and one for single adults. This program will be folded into the Middlesex County programs, where we also have a family shelter, street outreach, Support Services for Veteran Families, permanent supportive housing and Rapid Re-Housing programs.
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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