November 19, 2018
Community Excellence & Nonprofit Awards 2018

CT nonprofits collaborate on housing solution for domestic violence survivors

Photos | Contributed
Photos | Contributed
(Left and top right photos) Karen Jarmoc is the CEO of the Wethersfield-based Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (Right, bottom) Former Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) CEO Lisa Tepper Bates awards Jarmoc the “Carol E. Walter Think, Be, Lead Change” Award at the 2018 CCEH Annual Training Institute for her leadership of the domestic violence nonprofit where she is a voice for victims of domestic violence and those who serve them. Jarmoc helped spearhead legislation to improve the state's response to victims of domestic violence and worked with others to secure funding for 24/7 coverage for domestic violence shelters.

Nonprofit Collaboration of the Year — Winners: Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness

Two Connecticut nonprofits demonstrated the benefits of collaboration when they developed a way to open doors to new accessible housing options for survivors of domestic violence.

"This was simply derived from our collective desire to do better by both of the constituencies that we're serving — no one forced us to do this," said Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Wethersfield-based Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), which partnered with the Hartford-based Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH) to help domestic violence survivors and their families find safe housing anonymously.

Several years ago, with domestic violence shelters in the state running at about 125 percent capacity, in part because of the lack of affordable accessible housing for survivors to go to from shelters, Jarmoc and Lisa Tepper Bates, then CEO and executive director of CCEH, sought to devise a solution. (Bates in September became a consultant with Fio Partners, which helps nonprofits, foundations and governments.)

Key was resolving federal guidelines in conflict with each other: that people seeking housing assistance be entered and identified in a public database, the Housing Management Information System (HMIS), and that victims of domestic violence have their identities protected.

So CCADV, with $13.5 million in revenues in fiscal 2017, and CCEH, with $3.2 million in revenues that same year, created a workaround approved by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Office on Violence Against Women, allowing domestic violence survivors to be included in HMIS and have the same access to state and federal housing resources within the homeless service system as everyone else, without jeopardizing their safety by naming them. Domestic violence survivors deemed at high risk can receive housing priority.

Before, survivors either had to waive their confidentiality or were denied access to the federal housing — neither great options, Jarmoc said.

CCADV and CCEH in 2014 began developing guiding principles, training and cross-training, to ensure clients' needs were met and their safety ensured, Jarmoc said.

"We really emphasize the importance of domestic violence and housing case managers to be collectively working together out in the field … because they really hadn't been working together in this way before and, if anything, it was a race for the dollars," she said.

Cooperation evolved and by Jan. 2017, with government OKs, the collaboration was off and running, resulting in domestic violence providers referring 135 households to the homeless system for housing through mid-2018, with 73 households housed or moving toward permanent housing.

Mary Ann Haley, who was interim CEO and deputy director at CCEH, said the collaboration is a model for other states.

"It's a really big deal, it really is nationally recognized," Haley said, praising the work and trust between Jarmoc and Tepper Bates.

"They're not systems that naturally go together unless you really work at making those bridges and understanding one another's systems," Haley said.

CCEH, which recently named Richard Cho its new CEO, is proud of the program and, "most importantly, that the domestic violence survivors are kept safe and that we're promoting equal housing," Haley said.

It's traumatic to experience domestic violence or homelessness, but the two together are incredibly difficult, she said.

Joe Gianni, market president for the Hartford region of Bank of America, a funder of CCEH for about 10 years and CCADV more recently, praised the collaboration.

"When we heard their goals in collaborating, it made perfect sense," he said.

"We as funders talk about this all the time in terms of organizations being able to collaborate," Gianni said. "I think this type of award highlights those successes that are out there."

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