With an increasing number of families lacking security in their housing, local organizations confront ever-changing challenges to support this at-risk community
DARIEN, CT – Impact Fairfield County (“Impact FFC”) recently held its first Impactful Conversation of the 2023-2024 grant year on the topic of “No Place Like Home,” addressing the urgent and increasing needs of housing-insecure residents of Fairfield County. The dynamic panel discussion at the Darien Library featured Impact FFC Grantees Building One Community , New Reach and The Housing Collective.
Moderated by Maryellen Frank, Co-Chair of Events for Impact FFC, Anka Badurina, Executive Director of Building One Community (“B1C”), Kellyann Day, CEO of New Reach, and David Rich, CEO of The Housing Collective, shared how they are dealing with the challenges of the housing system and how Impact FFC Grants are helping to meet their goals.
With its 2022 Impact FFC Grant, New Reach was able to expand its eviction prevention services in the City of Bridgeport by hiring an additional case worker to assist more families each year. Combining high-quality social work with legal services, families served by New Reach will avert eviction, obtain legal representation, gain access to entitled benefits, and receive necessary healthcare. “As New Reach continues its mission to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time, Impact’s grant came at just the right time as we have seen demand for our services skyrocket post-Covid,” said Day.
B1C is seeing changes in its constituents, as more immigrants without a direct connection to the community are moving to the area and need more assistance establishing housing, work and legal support. With their Impact FFC Grant in 2020, near the onset of Covid, B1C was able to focus on its capacity development and establish a leadership academy, providing training and development at all levels of their organization. “We’re training the future leaders of philanthropy,” said Badurina, “while also building out our ability to serve the increasing number of people in need of our services.”
The Housing Collective has a different model, working with committed partners to align community resources so that no one is without a place to live for more than 30 days. With their 2018 Impact FFC Grant, The Housing Collective acquired and retrofitted a mobile van to address youth homelessness, removing barriers to services such as transportation, limited phone access and navigating a complex system. As a result, The Housing Collective has been able to identify more at-risk youth in Fairfield County and apply for federal grants to support this initiative. “We can end homelessness for youth and families,” said Rich. “There are a lot of headwinds in front of us, but we can do this.”
While all three organizations are forging ahead to support those most at risk, they noted some key challenges presenting in their work:
Faster Shift to Homelessness: “The time it takes for families to move from eviction to emergency homeless shelters has dropped from 18-24 months to just a couple of months over the past few years” said Day.
Low Vacancy: “There is a trickle down effect, with the lowest of the low income being pushed out of the housing system as even those in the middle income, including our teachers and police officers, are finding themselves constrained by rising mortgage rates and low vacancy,” said Day.
Minors in Trouble: Both The Housing Collective and B1C have seen a sharp increase in the need for youth services. For B1C, “the rise in unaccompanied minors migrating means more legal support for these youth”, said Badurina. “Beyond that, we need support for these youth that come to us with a lot of trauma such as gang violence and human trafficking.”
Increasing Resource Demand: Each organization noted the increased demand for their services across the board and that they are all focused on helping families avoid getting into distress. “Prevention work is the holy grail of homelessness and work that New Reach and Building One do to support this mission is tremendous,” said Rich. “Together, we are making big strides.”
“Collectively, our panelists are working so hard to meet the needs of our underserved community. While there is so much more to be done, Impact FFC Grants have provided these amazing non-profits with resources to take the next step towards ending homelessness in Fairfield County,” said Impact FFC Co-President, Jenny San Jose.
The overarching theme of the discussion centered around the impact local communities can make with everyday decisions. “Through education, conversation and advocacy, we can make a real difference,” said Frank.
The 2023-2024 grant year has begun, with nonprofit applications due by November 13th, 2023. The Fall Kickoff for members and those interested in learning more about Impact FFC will be held on November 8th, 2023 at the Stamford Nature Center.