We hope you are staying healthy and spending lots of quality time with family and loved ones during this time. I am sure you would agree that this is a perilous moment, which is also incredibly stressful. That said, I must thank our dedicated staff, who have not taken their eyes off our mission and for being steadfast in the effort to continue to meet the needs of our participants.
From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Community Partners in Action (CPA) quickly and smoothly shifted into a new way of working with our participants and staff. This work continues while we collaborate with our State funders to decide when to return to in-person services safely. In the meantime, I want to update you about our programs:
Reentry Welcome Center and Resettlement Program
Resettlement and the Reentry Welcome Center (RWC) continue to be on the front lines during the pandemic. The RWC has assisted 25 people since the beginning of April who discharged from prison to the Hartford area in need of emergency assistance.
Unfortunately, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, Hartford-area shelters are closed. Therefore, our staff is working quickly to find emergency housing in economy hotels or sober houses until longer-term housing is available. Our strong relationships with the CT Judicial Branch, Department of Correction (DOC), community housing partners, and other agencies have proved invaluable during this challenging period.
Securing emergency housing is no small task and an expensive one. We are thankful for our partners, the Coalition to End Homelessness and Community Health Resources, for securing two emergency housing grants: one by the DOC Re-Entry Housing Assistance Program and a second one by the COVID-19 Response Fund of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. Also, CPA received a generous $50,000 donation from the Travelers Foundation to assist with emergency housing and basic needs for participants served by our reentry programs during the pandemic.
Residential Programs: Transitional Houses
and Work Release Program
Additional CPA programs on the front line of the pandemic are our three residential programs that continue to be staffed and operated 24/7. We are in awe of our residential staff working diligently to adhere to CDC guidelines to keep our residents safe while easing their daily fears about the virus and what life will look like post-COVID-19.
Since late March, the programs are now down to 36 residents. The Transitional Houses in Hartford and Waterbury have 16 residents, combined (Total standard capacity is 62 beds). Occupancy is steadily going down as many residents have safely discharged to longer-term housing.
The number of residents in our Work Release Program remains at the capped level of 20 men (standard capacity is 24 beds). DOC is still transferring qualified residents to Work Release when a new bed becomes available.
These three programs enhanced in-residence programming by offering the newly launched virtual version of the STRIVE program. STRIVE is a nationally-recognized workforce development training curriculum taught by our partner Career Resources. Regarding the residents’ employment status, those who are still employed continue to go to work.
Alternative in the Community (AIC) and
Community Service Programs
Staff at our Alternative in the Community (AIC) programs continue to provide remote services for our participants. In partnership with our State funder, our AICs in Hartford, Waterbury, and Manchester started piloting virtual sessions this week for selected therapeutic groups.
The staff first surveyed participants who attended groups before the shutdown to ask if they wanted to participate via video. Then they confirmed if participants had Zoom video capabilities and a quiet private location where they could attend the groups for an hour. To date, this pilot is making progress as we had hoped.
Our Community Service Program at Hartford Community Court is still not operating because the court is closed. However, the staff is continuing the community spirit by volunteering with various organizations to distribute food and provide other pandemic-related emergency assistance.
Mart’s House Reentry Home for Women
The Mart’s House residents are doing fine. The home is now down to four residents. The staff holds group calls with them weekly.
Only one of the women, who is a CNA, continues to work fulltime. The other residents expect to be called back to work as the State reopens.
REGIONS Residential Program
The new REGIONS Staff-Secure Program in Hartford, whose March opening was halted because of the State shutdown, is moving forward with its preparations to open in June. Staff continues to participate in virtual training to further develop the program’s Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) Model.
Meanwhile, preparations are well underway to open a second REGIONS program in Hamden. The site is being remodeled, and staff interviews are in process. This site-secure program is currently scheduled to open in early fall 2020.
Both REGIONS programs will provide residential treatment, case management, education, and vocational training services for young men ages 14 to 18. Both programs will be well prepared to follow CDC guidelines to prevent COVID-19.
Prison Arts Program
While Connecticut’s prisons remain closed to outside visitors, Prison Arts has turned to correspondence programming to connect with incarcerated artists. Ongoing mailings provide reference materials, project ideas, and encouragement, as well as updates on exhibition and publication plans and developments.
DOC staff have been doing their best to keep the program and interested artists connected, and to distribute materials as needed. Those living in prison are more isolated than ever, making this an incredibly important time for the work of Prison Arts.
In anticipation of the prisons eventually opening for visitors and contractors again, the program continues planning for the fall. Prison Arts will be launching two new initiatives; one is funded by the CT Community Foundation of Waterbury and the other is funded by the Nutmeg Foundation. The actual launch dates will depend on when the DOC quarantine is lifted.
We appreciate your continuing support for Community Partners in Action. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our Development Director, Sandra Bradford-Jennings.
Community Partners in Action