Hartford will roll out a plan called Journey Home to end chronic homelessness in 10 years
By DANIEL D'AMBROSIO, Hartford Advocate Staff Writer
October 04, 2007
Carol Walter, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, used to call herself the safest woman in Hartford.
At the time, she was running the Stuart B. McKinney Shelter on Huyshope Avenue, one of the city's two "wet" shelters, where the homeless can come in drunk or high, as long as they don't hurt anyone. The other is the Immaculate Conception Shelter on Park Street.
"Often the most difficult folks come into those programs," said Walter. "If there's a crack to fall through, these guys will find it."
But they liked Walter. Hence the "safest woman" comment.
"I could walk through Bushnell Park in the middle of the night and [know] I'm good, these people have my back," said Walter.
Walter's ability to connect with the homeless began 20 years ago when she took a job at a shelter in New Haven. A former assistant to a city councilwoman in New York, Walters had a one-year hole in her resume left by her own drug rehabilitation.
"I figured a shelter would hire me, what are they going to say?" said Walter.
Now working statewide to end homelessness, Walter is looking forward to an expected Oct. 9 rollout of Hartford's "Journey Home" program, intended to end chronic homelessness in the city within 10 years.
A study last year showed 5,662 people used emergency shelters in the Greater Hartford area from October 2005 to September 2006, including 550 children. And the first "point in time count" of homeless tallied 513 "households" in Hartford with a total of more than 700 people, including 134 children, on Jan. 30, when the temperature dipped below freezing.
Sarah Barr, director of communications for Mayor Eddie Perez, declined to discuss the implementation plan for Journey Home, approved by the City Council on Sept. 10, before the roll-out.
But Walter said she believed the $450,000 committed to the program over the next three years will likely go toward establishing a permanent staff to push for more "supportive housing," subsidized apartments where the chronically homeless can live permanently.
"It's very difficult to get these developed because there are not enough resources," said Walter.
Journey Home echoes a statewide campaign, called "Reaching Home," that has set a goal of creating 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing across the state by 2014.
Research at the University of Pennsylvania in 2000 showed a very small portion of the homeless population uses more than half of the services available, and that targeting those people for a subsidized apartment and intensive services stabilizes them, saving money on police, hospital visits and other costs.
While getting funding for supportive housing is tough, Walter said about 3,000 units of the 10,000-unit goal are currently available or under construction around the state.
"We'll continue to fight for those programs to grow, but at the same time this is a crisis and we have to be creative," said Walter. "We have to get people off the streets."