2022 All-America City Finalist – New Haven, CT

Like so many other places, New Haven is a city of haves and have-nots. The residents at Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of New Haven are so many of the have-nots — people who have been left behind by decades of white flight, disinvestment, and a fractured and transitional economy. These inequities were the genesis of the Elm City Communities (ECC) Believes Initiative.

Elm City Communities Believes Initiative
ECC Believes was launched with the simple mission of providing educational supports to students and families living in ECC properties. To start, housing authority staff initiated a citywide outreach campaign to find community partners to provide onsite programming for youth residents and explore creative ways to share resources and grant opportunities. ECC first entered Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with several New Haven public schools. The MOUs were critical tools for ECC to access data about student performance, attendance and truancy, and helped inform data-driven programming. Beyond the school system, ECC staff sought meaningful collaboration with local partners that went further than simply promoting programs to residents. ECC encouraged local partners to hold classes on-site and organized additional regular programming with external organizations.

Through the development of community collaborations, ECC Believes offers an array of programs and services addressing:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Attendance and School Engagement
  • Academic Support
  • Career and College Readiness
  • Parent Engagement

While partnerships may differ, they share the common goal of bringing expanded services to residents and supporting learning and academic opportunities for students and their families.

COVID-19 Response

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ECC Believes Initiative adopted a more holistic wraparound approach to fill the gaps left by schools and other partner organizations that either shut down or significantly decreased operations.

  • Connectivity Services – ECC coordinated resources to redistribute tablets initially earmarked for other activities, such as census work, to families with children now engaging in digital learning.
  • Teacher in Residence (TIR) – To support ECC students’ educational endeavors, a program was created to house a New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) teacher within developments in exchange for on-site homework help and tutorial services.
  • Resident Summer Youth Volunteer Program (RSYVP) – ECC built a summer jobs and soft skills program that provided financial compensation and mentorship for almost 40 participants.
  • Student Training Employment Program (STEP) – STEP provides needed opportunity and experience for professional, personal and financial growth by hiring young residents within ECC offices and providing them with wraparound services and mentorship.
  • Child Development Associate (CDA) Program – The program provides on-site services to residents to help them apply for the CDA credentials required in Connecticut to work as a head teacher in a child care center.
  • Food Distribution – ECC coordinated with food banks to have food delivered directly to developments. Residents were then given stipends to separate the food and deliver it to families and disabled and elderly residents. NHPS introduced its meal-kit delivery service in November 2020 to help families that were unable to travel to the designated pick-up sites. ECC partnered with NHPS to identify families in need of the service and streamline the delivery process.
  • Healthy Start Workshops – ECC partnered with New Haven Healthy Start to host a series of virtual trainings for parents focusing on Managing Through the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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