NEW BRITAIN - Back in May, the city, along with several other Connecticut towns, vowed to house over 40 homeless youths as part of the “Reaching Home Ending Homelessness 100 Day Challenge.”
At the 100 Day Challenge Wrap Up To End Youth Homelessness Saturday at OIC, the city celebrated housing 44.
“This is a milestone for our community,” said Mayor Erin Stewart. “To house 44 youths in 100 days is life changing and shows we are a community of compassion.”
The nationwide effort began on May 1 and ended on Aug. 8. During that time, several Connecticut towns housed at least 40 homeless youth ages 18 to 24. They also connected them to health, education and employment services.
New Britain, Berlin, Bristol, Plainville and Southington participated. The towns are part of the Central Connecticut Coordinated Access Network, which sponsored the challenge.
“It really opened up the opportunity for more collaboration,” said the mayor, adding that ending homelessness has “been a cornerstone of my administration.”
At the celebration, visitors enjoyed free food, music and even a bounce house. They were able to speak to the mayor at the Mobile Mayor’s Office and buy produce from New Britain’s Roots mobile farmers market.
Visitors were also able to learn more about the groups that made the challenge a success.
“It was a team effort,” said Dawn Fairstevis, service coordinator for the Friendship Center. “We actually worked really hard to do that and I’m proud of us.”
The center offers 10 spots for homeless youth in their transitional housing program.
“OIC has been actively involved and we’ll continue to be,” said Paulette Fox, executive director of OIC. “OIC has that type of commitment.”
“A job is not enough. Youth need those programs,” Fox added. Programs that connect young people with everything from jobs to mental health services are instrumental in their success.
“It’s really bringing people together and creating a streamlined system that helps them,” said Mallory Deprey. Deprey works at YWCA and is on the OIC board. She is the team leader for Central Connecticut CAN’s 100 Day Challenge.
“They’re our future leaders,” she said of the homeless youth.
Leticia Mangual, director of employment and training at HRA, agreed that having a variety of programs is essential.
“HRA’s part is to provide a wrap-around support system,” she said.
“We got a lot of help from New Britain and Berlin mayors,” said Victoria Osborne of the Salvation Army who is the youth navigation for Central Connecticut CAN. “And now as a result we had a lot of youth calling 2-1-1.”
The American Savings Foundation, Journey Home, United Way, and the state Department of Housing provided funding for the housing.
The groups that helped are: the City of New Britain Community Services department, the Salvation Army, OIC of New Britain, YWCA New Britain, the Friendship Service Center, Community Health Resources, Prudence Crandall, Partnerships for Strong Communities, and the Human Resources Agency of New Britain. Representatives from the groups met weekly at the YWCA’s East Side Community Center to achieve the goal.
Michelle Jalbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.