Danbury Housing Partnership Chair Mark J. Nolan and Greater Danbury Continuum of Care Co-Chair Milena Sangut recently participated in a “stakeholders” meeting hosted in Boston, MA by the United States Interagency Council On Homelessness (USICH).  The purpose of the meeting was to help develop a new Federal Strategic Plan To Prevent and End Homelessness in America.   The Boston event was one of a series of regional meetings with Ten-Year Plan Communities and other stakeholders to get input and feedback on existing strategies to address homelessness and to collaborate on new efforts to increase the combined efforts of Federal, State and local entities to develop and implement innovative approaches to address the problems of homelessness and affordable housing.


USICH is composed of representatives of all Federal cabinet level agencies and is the lead Federal entity for developing and implementing efforts to prevent and end homelessness.  The regional forums hosted by USICH were intended to engage leaders of regional and state interagency councils, as well as stakeholders from throughout the multi-state regions. These meetings provided a great opportunity for USICH to hear directly from external and Federal Government stakeholders regarding challenges, priorities and different perspectives on how to prevent and end homelessness in the United States. USICH indicated that the input from these sessions “is incredibly valuable and will be incorporated into the development of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.”  USICH is charged with submitting a new Federal Strategic Plan To Prevent and End Homelessness to Congress in May, 2010.


At the Boston regional meeting, Mr. Nolan stressed the importance of supporting local communities engaged in implementing Ten-Year Plans to address homelessness and the need for continued cooperation of Federal, State and local authorities.  With the assistance of USICH, the City of Danbury adopted a Ten-Year Plan To End Homelessness in 2006 and charged the Danbury Housing Partnership with overseeing implementation of the plan.  The Ten-Year Plan process involves creation of a collaborative community-wide effort partnering public, private and non-profit sector entities to address affordable housing and homelessness with financial and technical support from State and Federal agencies. 


Mr. Nolan commented:  “It is refreshing to have the Federal Government ask those of us in the field how can we help to make the system work better.  Danbury and our regional partners are working very hard to help those individuals and families maintain housing during these very difficult times. It will take federal, state and local policy intervention to create economic stability for our residents.”


The Greater Danbury Continuum of Care, co-chaired by Ms. Sangut, is a key partner in the local effort to develop and implement programs to provide direct benefits to persons who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless.  Ms. Sangut stressed to the Boston meeting the crucial role that local continuums play in obtaining Federal funds and implementing programs to address homelessness under the continuum of care process implemented by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The local continuum consists of community social service agencies dedicated to addressing the housing and social service needs of persons who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless.  Ms. Sangut also reported the great success in implementing the Project Homeless Connect model in Danbury in cooperation with the USICH.  


Ms. Sangut stated:  “The Regional meeting was very informative in learning how other communities in the Northeast are dealing with challenges relating to homelessness.  Participants were able to network with each other and share information with USICH on local needs and best practices.”


Mr. Nolan and Ms. Sangut emphasized to the meeting participants that their experience in Danbury clearly established that the most important elements of any strategy to combat homelessness would be the creation of additional affordable housing opportunities and the provision of supportive housing that addresses not only the housing needs of persons and families but also their social service needs.


As they continue their efforts to develop the new Federal Strategic Plan, USICH will be providing the opportunity for everyone who is interested in this very important matter to have their opinion heard.  To this end, USICH has launched a new interactive website called USICH Preventing and Ending Homelessnessfsp.uservoice.com.  This site is not just a repository for ideas.  Once an idea has been posted, anyone can vote and comment on the suggestions and the most popular ideas will be displayed at the top of the list.  USICH Preventing and Ending Homelessness will be reviewed by USICH staff and the ideas that receive the most votes and comments will be assessed for possible inclusion in the FSP. The site will be open during a two week window starting Monday, March 1 through Monday, March 15.


For more information about USICH please visit their website at www.ich.gov.


For more information about the Danbury Housing Partnership please visit www.danburyhousingpartnership.org.


For more information about the Greater Danbury Continuum of Care please click on the link provided.