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Director of Nonprofit Gives Hope to Homelessness

Ending homelessness in Fairfield does not have to mean spending millions of dollars on new housing developments, says executive director of Operation Hope , Carla Miklos. You just have to be resourceful.

“We started to think about it, and while we are a local organization, homelessness is a regional problem too,” she said. “Organizations in other communities are working on the problem so we started working together and targeting our resources.”

One such organization was United Way of Coastal Fairfield County, whose approach to supportive housing, Bridgeport Housing First, matches federally funded housing vouchers with people who need them. Approximately two years ago, Operation Hope started a collaboration with them to end homelessness on a larger scale. In the first six months alone, they helped move 69 families off the streets in towns like Norwalk, Westport and Stamford.

Miklos and her team then negotiated with property owners to rent space they already had available. Clients, who agreed to pay 30 percent of their monthly income as rent, were then assigned a case manager for support.

“People need housing that is safe, affordable and livable,” she said. “And once you wrap services around them, it’s equally successful. So far that’s proven to be true.”

Supportive housing isn’t the only way Operation Hope has expanded its reach, though. Since Miklos became the nonprofit organization’s executive director four years ago, she has focused on helping people who benefit from its food pantry in other capacities. For example, there is now a representative from Southwest Community Health Center — a local organization that provides dental, medical and behavior health services — on-site at the pantry.

“We recognized that the same space could serve people a little more deeply,” Miklos added.

She says that the food pantry’s location at 636 Old Post Road in Fairfield, which is close to Town Hall, has given it more of a community presence.

Miklos says she is always coming up with new ideas to better serve Fairfield communities, but couldn’t do any of it without the help of her staff of volunteers who work day in and day out.

“We have people dedicated to providing opportunities for people who have fallen on hard times,” she said.

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