Celebrating Success!

Yesterday, Tuesday March 24, 2015 the Atrium at New Haven City Hall was filled with smiling students and proud family members.  Pictures were snapped, certificates distributed and gift cards awarded to excited young students ranging from kindergarteners to Seniors in high school.  The infectious spirit of Elm City Believes permeated the air!

Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of the City of New Haven (ECC/HANH) Executive Director Karen DuBois-Walton joined with Mayor Toni N. Harp, Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries and ECC/HANH Board Chair Erik Clemons to recognize the winners of our Inaugural Report Card Challenge.  Over 50 students whose families are supported by our low income public housing or housing choice voucher (Section 8) programs were feted during this reception in their honor.

What was the Report Card Challenge?  A simple idea borne out of our overall ECC Believes Initiative to support the academic achievement of our low income students, the report card challenge simply asked students to submit a copy of their report card to one of our management offices located throughout the city.  The incentive was the promise of recognition, gift cards and prizes to the development that had the highest percentage of participation in the challenge.

While simply designed, the challenge represented much more.  It sends a message throughout our portfolio that attendance, education and achievement are valued.  It sends a message to our children and their families that their entire community cares about their success and stands ready to support their efforts.  It provided yet another reason why parents made sure to make it to report card nights at schools throughout our city to pick up their child’s report card.  It created buzz amongst the youngsters in housing communities as they encouraged their friends to also submit their report cards so that their development could have the highest percentage and win the prize.  It helps to create the culture of academic achievement that is so important when closing the achievement and opportunity gap.

And so this simple challenge was so much more than an effort to collect report cards.  It is a demonstration of our belief in our children.  It is a demonstration that education and successful social emotional development are keys to the successful launch of our young people and key to breaking cycles of poverty.  We believe in our students and we believe in our families’ and our communities’ ability to support the dreams of our kids.  Together we will ensure that our kids continue to rise.

And during the upcoming April school break we will celebrate with the children of Farnam Court – who as recipients of the prize for highest participation during the Report Card Challenge will have the video game bus and pizza party on site for a day of fun and reward.  Congratulations to all our young people!


What it Means to be Outstanding


On Saturday March 14, 2015 in Wallingford, CT, the CT- Public Housing Resident Network (CT-PHRN) honored the Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of the City of New Haven as its 2015 ‘Outstanding Housing Authority’.  What a rewarding accomplishment to be honored this year by an organization such as CT PHRN – an organization that serves not only as a voice in Connecticut for public housing residents in the decisions that affect their lives and their communities but one that also empowers residents by creating a powerful statewide organization that represents their interests.

To receive such an honor this year is especially meaningful when there is so much at stake for the designated MTW-Moving to Work housing authorities across the country due to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) proposal of critical changes to the MTW Program – a program that has allowed Elm City Communities/HANH to make the positive and impactful changes in the way we serve our residents and so many of the reasons why we have received this honor.

Serving Our Youth

Everyday Elm City Communities/HANH provides a home to over 1700 school aged children between the ages of 4 and 18.  Some of these children reside with their families in our larger developments, some in smaller developments and some in our scattered site portfolio.  Additionally we serve another 5000 youth through our Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program.

We are committed to doing our part to provide opportunities to ensure that our children get off to the right start.  Through the flexibility provided to us by the Federal Government due to our status as a Moving to Work agency, HANH has been able to fund a robust youth services program that partners with families, the Board of Education, Parks and Recreation and numerous social service agencies to bring services to our developments and to connect our children with programs throughout our great City.  Most services are fully subsidized by ECC/HANH.

Everyday approximately 400 children are served through programs directly funded by us such as Boys and Girls Club, Youth Police Initiative, Elm Shakespeare, the City of New Haven and Center for Adaptive Learning.  Countless others are served by providers who have developed programs in partnership with ECC/HANH but obtained their own funding such as Solar Youth, the Little Learners Program, BRIDGES and the Junior League to name a few.

Each summer we support our youth in attending summer camps and we fund summer jobs through the Youth@Work program and the ECC/HANH based STEP-Student Training & Employment Program.  Our youth have access to after school programming that includes homework assistance, recreation, equestrian, dramatic and other creative arts, sports and mentoring.


It is our belief that the key to breaking the cycle of poverty is education. As a result, we also launched an education initiative called Elm City Believes. Elm City Believes is comprised of policies and programs that focus on 1) academic supports that help reduce the achievement gap; 2) ways parents and families can better engage in their children’s education; and 3) programs and policies that boost post-secondary opportunities. ECC/HANH provides supports and services to students and families through meaningful partnerships with schools, educators, and community based organizations. We aim to leverage smart housing policy and programs that help close the opportunity gaps and in so doing, have the potential to stop the cycle of poverty among the ECC/HANH families thereby potentially building a new, vibrant middle class in New Haven.


To date, we have been able transform public housing developments into communities of choice with successful rebuilding of over 1200 units at an investment of over $412 million.  Through our modernization and redevelopment efforts we are creating affordable communities of choice for residents of the City of New Haven.

Most recently, we are in the construction phase in the rebuilding of Ribicoff Cottages, which will be replaced by 56 units of senior housing and 50 units of family housing, with 8 homeownership units in a future phase.


We are committed to providing opportunities to residents of the Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher Programs so that they can become financially independent.

Many of our residents actively take advantage of services and programs offered including:

  • GED Classes • Computer Training • Financial Training • Job Training • Work Placement Services • Child Care Assistance • Transportation Assistance

We work with residents to develop a 5-year plan documenting their personal and professional goals. As the resident’s rent increases, due to earning higher wages, a portion of the rent is matched by the Authority and credited monthly to an escrow account which they will receive upon graduation.

The agency honors the FSS graduates’ achievements each year. The goals and accomplishments of each FSS member are announced and recognition is given to their future aspirations such as homeownership, education, or career.

While homeownership is not the goal for all, to date we have approximately 40 new homeowners who have successfully completed the program and transitioned to home ownership!


Being recognized by the CT PHRN is an honor and a credit to the residents we serve!  We will continue to move forward making strides that will not only change the landscape of New Haven from a development perspective but will also impact the lives of thousands of residents by supporting their efforts to transition into self-sufficiency.  We will also continue to advocate for the protection of the Moving to Work program which allows us to create “Outstanding” change in our community. Thank you CT- PHRN!

The Beginning of a Movement…

We are into the first year of our Elm City Believes initiative seeking to support the young people who receive housing supports through ECC/HANH to achieve academic support. Although it may seem self-evident that this partnership between housing and education is necessary, this collaboration has not and does not occur consistently in any coordinated way throughout this country. In beginning our initiative, our goal was simple. It was borne of a love for our young people—their energy, their potential, their spirit. It was borne of our belief in equity and opportunity. It was borne out of a desire to create pathways to move families into the middle class. And it was borne out of the belief that if our children are adequately prepared, appropriately supported, given access to quality educational resources and supports and mentored and guided that they will achieve academic success and will launch into adulthood prepared to be self sufficient.


And so we developed a local model delivered by the housing authority. A model that combines access to early childhood programs, academic support, parental support and postsecondary opportunities with strong partnerships with the school children attend. And we engaged partners. Partners that were eager to join forces, and to date we are jointly engaged with New Haven Public Schools, Common Ground Charter High School, ACES Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet and Booker T. Washington Charter Elementary School. And we engaged students and families. We were pleased to find that families and students were eager to partner with their housing provider in order to support children’s educational goals. And we began to talk about it and collaborate with other public housing providers across the nation to find that there were burgeoning efforts in a handful of agencies to work in a similar manner. But despite the obvious nature of this partnership, it does not happen often and has not been facilitated by state and federal policy priorities.


But there is a movement afoot to change this and we are at the forefront of that movement—a movement to break down silos between housing and education to best serve the needs of our country’s lowest income children.


Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of the City of New Haven’s youth academic achievement initiative, known as Elm City Believes! (originally called HANH Believes!) caught national attention this week as we were featured presenters at the Inaugural CLPHA Education Summit held in Washington, DC on February 26-27, 2015. Representing ECC/HANH was Executive Director Karen DuBois-Walton, Board Chair and Executive Director of ConnCAT Erik Clemons, Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries, Executive Director of Common Ground Charter High School Lizanne Cox and ECC Education Policy Director Emily Byrne.


This first ever gathering hosted by the Council of Large Public Authorities (CLPHA) and supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, brought together housing providers and educational professionals around the organizing frame that “every child deserves access to stable housing and a quality education to improve their life outcomes.” Partners in the Summit included CLPHA, ASCEND at the Aspen Institute, the Center for American Progress, the Council of the Great City Schools, the Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Urban Institute.


As a prelude to the Summit, ECC/HANH was one of three housing authorities (along with Akron, OH and Vancouver, WA) to be selected to be part of a case study conducted by the Urban Institute. A draft of the case study was previewed at the Summit and is expected to be widely released in the Spring of 2015. These three sites were highlighted during the opening panel at the CLPHA Education Summit. ED DuBois-Walton and Superintendent Harries engaged the audience around the New Haven model and helped to shape the national conversation around how housing and education can best collaborate to meet the needs of our shared students.


In New Haven we are clear that our success is intrinsically linked. Our 7,000 students represent approximately 30% of the NHPS student population. Closing the achievement gap for our low income students is a crucial component of school reform efforts. And graduating students who are ready for postsecondary opportunities allows us to break cycles of poverty for our families. At ECC/HANH we are in the business of providing housing and opportunity for low-income families for the long term. However, rather than serving multiple generations of the same families, let’s break the cycle for our current families and provide needed housing resources to other families. Partnerships such as this go a long way toward solving this problem nationally.