At 18 years old, in the dead of winter, Artemis Fontaine found herself homeless, with all her belongings in her car. Everything she needed each day she kept in the front seat, all her clothes in the backseat, everything else in the trunk. While floating from one friend’s house to the next, seeking refuge from the cold and trying to find enough to eat while looking for work, Artemis met many people her age in a similar situation. Today, Fontaine is one of several researchers with the Youth Action Hub (YAH) at the Institute for Community Research, a group of young adults who have experienced homelessness and are now focused on understanding and improving young people’s access to information and housing-related services in Connecticut.
“Needless to say, it was hard,” said Fontaine. “I never knew about all the resources that were available to me, and had I known, I might not have struggled so much during those months. When I came to work at the Institute for Community Research, I realized I was not the only one who had struggled, and I was being given an opportunity to give back alongside some of the people who had experienced similar troubles as me.”
To help end homelessness among youth/young adults and families with children, the Partnership for Strong Communities has been awarded a three-year $210,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The project utilizes the Coordinated Access Network (CAN), which works to streamline and standardize the services of homeless providers, ensuring one point of access for those in need. The CAN system is being adapted for the two target populations of the project, homeless youth/young adults and families with children. The grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving will go toward work with the Greater Hartford Region’s CAN to design and implement a statewide model.
Approximately 261 families and 441 children are currently homeless in Greater Hartford, the fastest growing segment experiencing homelessness. Greater Hartford also has almost 1,200 unaccompanied and unstably-housed youth and young adults, individuals who are nearly invisible to the public and particularly hard to reach. Especially vulnerable are LGBTQ youth, pregnant or parenting youth, youth involved in juvenile justice or foster care systems, and victims of sexual trafficking and exploitation.
“When young people or children have no safe housing or shelter, they often suffer terribly, with potentially long-lasting and significant detrimental effects on their growth and development,” says Alicia Woodsby, Executive Director of Partnership for Strong Communities. “We must help unaccompanied youth and families with children as quickly as possible while they are in crisis, and also work to support their stability after an episode of homelessness so that we prevent further crises. This grant from Hartford Foundation will help us accomplish these goals in the Greater Hartford area.”
The Greater Hartford CAN’s key partners include Journey Home, the Department of Housing, the Department of Children and Families, and various other state and local service providers working to meet the needs of homeless youth and families. The CAN will apply the research findings of the Youth Action Hub to identify gaps in accessing available services. The Partnership leads the Campaign’s collective impact efforts, helping to coordinate the CAN system, with the ultimate goal of ending youth and family homelessness in the region by the end of 2020.
Among the key projected outcomes of the project are:
“Partnership for Strong Communities has proven adept at working with leading social service providers to address the needs of homeless populations, having played a role in the state’s recent success at officially ending Veterans’ homelessness and on the cusp of ending chronic homelessness this year,” said Pete Rosa, senior program officer at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. “We are confident that utilizing a similar approach to address the homelessness of families with children and of youth/young adults in Greater Hartford should prove helpful in meeting similar goals.”