Homelessness Award Winning Work

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Diane Randall Leadership Award

Merle Berke-Schlessel

If you ask anyone in the Greater Bridgeport area, they will say the support United Way of Coastal Fairfield County has given to Bridgeport has been critical in that city’s nearly 50% reduction in chronic homelessness.

Merle Berke-Schlessel is President & CEO of United Way of Coastal Fairfield County and has a history of engagement in, and support of, efforts to end homelessness.  Since 2005, Merle has provided support through United Way for the creation of successful on-the-ground solutions to end homelessness in Bridgeport, one of the poorest communities in the country.

Her work with providers and local and state policy makers serves as a national model. In the greater Bridgeport Area, she’s  led the charge to develop one of the nation’s first Ten-Year Plans to End Homelessness. Since the release of that report in 2005, Merle’s United Way has actively supported the implementation of the plan through leadership, convening of partners,  staff funding and providing space for community meetings.

United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, under Merle’s leadership, funded rapid re-housing and homelessness prevention programs that preceded and informed current state and federal initiatives. United Way is an important partner in efforts to launch the Coordinated Access system that will allow our communities to better address the needs of those people who are homeless by using cost-effective, comprehensive solutions to homelessness.

The Bridgeport Housing First Coalition has gained a national reputation as one of the 14 top-performing communities in America advancing the goal of ending chronic homelessness with the result of a 50% decrease in chronic homelessness in Greater Bridgeport from 2010 to 2012.

United Way is also a critical partner in Connecticut’s Homeless Management Information System by providing administrative support for the  region and working closely with the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness to ensure access to reliable and timely data.