The Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC) is a recognized leader and advocate for the elimination of homelessness, the creation of affordable homes, and the development of strong communities in Connecticut. None of these complex social problems can be solved by a single organization, and the Partnership has taken a leadership role in a process of collective impact to create and implement solutions by convening a broad coalition of partners across a spectrum of systems and service sectors. PSC serves as a backbone organization, which is one of five key conditions required for the success of collective impact initiatives. As a backbone organization, PSC provides ongoing coordination to ensure campaigns move forward to achieve their goals, by working to:
Specifically, PSC convene experts, advocates, practitioners, and leaders in business, community and government to guide a statewide process of strategy development and consensus building. We determine the best steps and mobilize key partners to execute the actions necessary to meet our shared goals. PSC produces policy briefs, gathers information and aggregates research and reports to inform state policymakers, municipal officials, and broader community stakeholders.. Our executives and policy staff speak at conferences across the state, region and nation. We produce an annual series of forums hosted at the Lyceum that explore the connections between housing policy and various disciplines, including education, environmental quality, transportation, health care, food security, community development and more.
Zero: 2016 is an initiative to end Veteran and chronic homelessness in the next two years. It is led nationally by Community Solutions and locally by thePartnership for Strong Communities (PSC) and Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH).
In January, 40 Connecticut providers and 9 state and federal partners joined Governor Malloy in signing on to Zero: 2016. Of the 71 communities in Zero: 2016, Connecticut is one of only 4 states participating!
1) End Veteran homelessness in Connecticut by the end of 20152) End chronic homelessness in Connecticut by the end of 2016 (individuals experiencing chronic homelessness are those who have been homeless for a long time and have a disability)
When it was created in 1998 by the Melville Charitable Trust, The Partnership for Strong Communities focused on strategies to prevent and end homelessness. Since its incorporation as a separate 501 (c)(3) in 2004, The Partnership’s mission has expanded to foster additional affordable housing throughout the State and support the development of strong and vibrant communities. The Partnership’s first Executive Director, Diane Randall, helped define the Partnership as a go-to institution for information on homelessness and affordable housing. In 2011, Howard Rifkin became Executive Director, and when he left in February 2014 to work for the Connecticut Lieutenant Governor's office, our Deputy Executive Director, Alicia Woodsby, took the helm. She has been instrumental in expanding the depth and breadth of our work.
The Partnership has three campaigns: Reaching Home, HOMEConnecticut, and the Ideas Forum Series.
In 2004, the Partnership was part of the statewide Steering Committee that launched the Reaching Home Campaign to address chronic homelessness. From 2004 through 2011, the Campaign focused on educating policymakers and the public about permanent supportive housing. In 2012, the Opening Doors – CT framework was agreed upon as a way to work across sectors and fully integrate our work to end homelessness, with goals of ending homelessness among veterans and those experiencing chronic homelessness by 2016 and among youth, families and children by 2022. While supportive housing is still a core function of the campaign, we understand that re-tooling the crisis intervention system, considering other housing options, and integrating housing with health care and economic security are key elements to the systemic changes that can effectively end homelessness.
HOMEConnecticut is a statewide campaign staffed by the Partnership and aimed at increasing the state’s stock of affordable housing. One initiative encourages towns to create Incentive Housing Zones where developers can increase housing density in exchange for creating mixed-income housing in town centers and along mass transit corridors.
The Ideas Forum Series is a set of public conversations that offer Ideas, Inspiration and Innovation about how the public and private sector can work together towards a mutual goal of solving key policy problems and enhancing Connecticut as a place where people want to live, work and raise a family. Each of these five to six annual Ideas Forums features a 30-minute talk by a subject matter expert followed by responses from panels of informed policymakers, lawmakers and scholars. A crucial part of each Forum is interaction, dialogue and learning, both with and from the audience members. Working with partners across the public, private and nonprofit sectors, the Ideas Forum series explores topics with an eye toward real world solutions that can be implemented in our state. The series provides opportunities for all stakeholders concerned about building stronger communities to share wisdom and experiences and to add their perspectives to our policy discussions.
Since 1998, PSC's advocacy work has helped to leverage Connecticut’s investment of more than $1 billion in supportive and affordable housing resources. PSC leads the Reaching Home campaign to build the civic and political will to prevent and end homelessness in Connecticut, and the HOMEConnecticut campaign to expand affordable housing in all communities across the state. We also manage the historic Lyceum Resource and Conference Center as a gathering place to share knowledge, develop policy and explore practical solutions for developing strong communities.
To date, Reaching Home has helped to create approximately 6,000 units of supportive housing in Connecticut, and we are the first state in the nation to achieve the milestone of ending chronic veteran homelessness. We are swiftly closing in on our goals to end all veteran and chronic homelessness in CT by the end of 2016. Reaching Home works with partners to implement efforts such as the successful Hospital Initiative pilot that identifies and connects frequent users of emergency departments to Community Care Teams, and completion of the Opening Doors for Youth Action Plan to end youth homelessness.
The HOMEConnecticut campaign provides a wealth of resources to municipalities to help them understand their housing needs and proactively create new housing. The campaign advocated for the creation of the Incentive Housing Zone program in 2008, which provides assistance and incentives to municipalities that allow creation of higher-density mixed-income housing. More than half of Connecticut’s municipalities have taken part in the program and there are now 14 IHZs throughout the state and other towns have created similar zoning for mixed-income housing. By preserving a strong presence in the regions and towns, developing regional housing groups, convening stakeholders through IForums and holding such events such as Multifamily Speed Dating, PSC has emerged as the lead housing policy authority in CT.
Reaching Home is PSC's overarching campaign to build the political and civic will to prevent and end homelessness in Connecticut. Reaching Home implements Opening Doors - CT, the nation's first statewide framework modeled after the federal government's Opening Doors plan to end homelessness. Now three years into the process, Reaching Home/Opening Doors-CT is focused on the following specific goals:
The HomeConnecticut campaign has continued to educate municipalities, their residents, developers and policymakers in such related disciplines as transportation, education and healthcare about the benefits of creating affordable and mixed-income higher-density housing near transit, in town centers and other areas of existing or planned infrastructure in municipalities around the state. The increasingly high demand for rental and other multifamily housing – sparked by both economic and demographic forces – is likely to see development in many more zones in the coming three years.
Incentive Housing Zones:Six more municipalities created Incentive Housing Zones around the state or high-density zoning similar to the minimum densities outlined in the statute, for a total of 14.
Pre-development Grants: Nineteen municipalities applied for and received grants from the Department of Housing to study potential locations, types and configurations of new mixed-income housing. Many were high-opportunity municipalities with resource-rich schools and abundant community services, including Madison, Guilford, Ridgefield, No. Stonington, Canton, Fairfield and Trumbull. Expected to apply/receive grants moving forward are Bethel, Marlborough, New Hartford, Orange and S. Windsor. Nearly 70 municipalities have now studied, planned for and/or outlined zones around the state.
Related Activities: The Partnership has produced several IForums to further this mission, along with a “Multifamily Speed Dating” event that brought together HomeConnecticut municipalities with lenders and developers. Another is anticipated this summer.
The HOMEConnecticut program is helping to set the stage for thoughtful local planning of dynamic, mixed-income communities throughout the state. In addition, the program provides a way for towns to create mixed-use development that incorporates both housing and economic development. By allowing towns to plan for mixed-income housing and mixed-use development in smart growth locations, the program will foster communities throughout the state that are both economically and ecologically sustainable.
Alicia Woodsby became the Partnership for Strong Communities' Interim Executive Director in February 2014. She joined the Partnership as the Deputy Executive Director in November of 2011.
As the former Public Policy Director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in CT, Alicia took a lead role on issues related to Medicaid and medication access, mental health parity, housing, decriminalization, and community mental health systems, among others. She conducted presentations on mental health policy at the state level and nationally.
Alicia worked closely with the NAMI-CT Board of Directors, its Public Policy Committee, and statewide membership to advocate for people with psychiatric disabilities and their families. She publicly represented the policy initiatives of NAMI-CT, and served as the primary liaison for public policy issues on state coalitions and with the national branch of NAMI. A strong focus of her work was to highlight the integral role of mental health in health care reform efforts and in shaping health care models and systems in the state.
Alicia co-chaired and managed the Keep the Promise Coalition and played a lead role in the development of the Keep the Promise children’s mental health initiative. She served on the NAMI National State Policy Advisory Group, the Reaching Home Campaign Steering Committee, and multiple Medicaid and healthcare coalitions. Alicia sits on the state’s Behavioral Health Partnership Oversight Council, and co-chairs the subcommittee for Adult Quality, Access and Policy issues. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the North Central Regional Mental Health Board.
Alicia holds a Masters of Social Work in Policy Practice with a focused area of study in Mental Health and Substance Abuse. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.
Wendy Kohn, Director of Marketing and Development, joined the Partnership for Strong Communities in Feb 2015. She is responsible for fundraising and creating donor communications materials for Partnership. Prior to starting at PSC, Wendy worked at Foodshare, one of CT’s regional food banks, as the Director of Development.
Wendy moved to CT in 2011 from Oregon. Wendy has had a varied career spanning several fields, starting as a practicing veterinarian in the early 90’s. Her love of education and communication (which are, not surprisingly, a big part of veterinary medicine) led her to start a small business called Kwamba Productions creating educational and advocacy media products for non-profits worldwide. After 17 successful years with Kwamba, Wendy became Executive Director of a small non-profit (PAW Team) providing veterinary care for the pets of people experiencing homelessness and extreme poverty in Portland, OR. She managed PAW Team for 4 years before moving to Connecticut.
Wendy graduated with a B.S. from Duke University in psychology and biology, and received her DVM from North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine. In a strange alignment of fate, she moved from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Connecticut where she lives with her spouse, 2 cats, and an English Mastiff (which counts for about 4 “normal” sized dogs).
Katy joined the Partnership in 2014 as a policy analyst. She has been responsible for researching, analyzing and offering housing policy recommendations to state, municipal and private agencies as well as working closely with the Partnership’s colleagues on issues ranging from supportive and affordable housing creation to community development strategies. She has produced IForums for the Partnership’s annual series and overseen research and community engagement for Regional Plan Association’s development of its 4th Regional Plan for the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region.
Katy, who was recognized by Hartford Business Journal in 2015 as one of its “40 Under Forty” accomplished and advancing young professionals, worked previously as the Development and Program Manager for the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development. There, she guided all aspects of multifamily affordable, workforce and supportive housing development projects and programs located throughout rural, suburban and urban Connecticut, including those located in Incentive Housing Zones. Prior to that, Katy was Project Manager for the New York City-based affordable housing developer Common Ground, where she supported the expansion of the agency’s Connecticut operations.
Katy has a B.A. in History and Visual Studies with Distinction from Cornell University and a J.D. cum laude from Quinnipiac University School of Law with a Concentration in Intellectual Property Law. She lives in West Hartford with her husband and son, and is the Vice-Chairman of the West Hartford Housing Authority.
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