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Norwalk Housing Authority looks to take NEON’s place

Norwalk Housing Authority 150218 010
Norwalk Housing Authority Executive Director Curtis Law.

NORWALK, Conn. — The competition is heating up for a new Norwalk-area anti-poverty agency. In addition to the two known contenders looking to replace the defunct Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now, the Norwalk Housing Authority plans to throw its hat into the ring.

NHA hopes to have an application in Monday, one day before the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) deadline, NHA Executive Director Curtis Law said Wednesday.

“We think it’s a good move. One thing we know, if we don’t apply we won’t get it. So I always go into it thinking we are going to be successful,” Law said.

DSS put out a Request for Qualifications for a new Community Action Agency on March 3, with an April 21 deadline for responses. The contract would run from May 25 to Sept. 30, 2016. The new agency would serve New Canaan, Norwalk, Weston, Westport and Wilton. To qualify, an organization “must currently provide services to low-income persons located in the Greater Norwalk catchment area or that is contiguous to the catchment area,” the RFQ said.

An optional letter of intent was due last Friday. A DSS spokesman has not yet provided information about who might have responded.

An NHA representative attended the bidders conference held March 24 in City Hall, according to a transcript on the DSS website. The Community Action Agency of Western Connecticut, formerly Community Action Committee of Danbury (CACD), had two representatives there. A group led by the Rev. Lindsay Curtis has also expressed interest.

A new agency must be operational on July 1, Connecticut Office of Community Services Public Assistance Consultant Cassandra Norfleet-Johnson said at the bidders conference, according to the transcript.

“So what do you mean by ‘operating’?” Stuart Goosman of NHA asked. “That’s a lot. It’s a lot to do by July. So when you say operate,’ are you fully operational?”

Norfleet-Johnson explained that the new agency must be able to offer the services outlined in the RFQ by July 1.

“So that’s why when the Department asks a question tied to organizational capacity, and they ask about your brief history in, you know, providing services to low-income people, are you an entity that only has the experience of providing one service, or are you an entity that are able to provide a lot of services?” Norfleet-Johnson said.

Organizational capacity includes managing federal dollars, she said.

There were no questions asked by anyone associated with Curtis, according to the transcript.

Law said Wednesday that he’s excited about applying.

“I think if one thinks about it, many of the clients that they serve, we serve here,” Law said. “I think it would provide a holistic one-stop shopping in terms of what we provide. We’re all in the business of providing services to low- and moderate-income families and so we think it would be good.”

He didn’t want to discuss the possibility of using the upper half of 98 South Main St. as a base of operations if NHA is successful.

The status of the city-owned building is still unknown as NEON’s bankruptcy proceedings drag on.

Rather, Law said, NHA would likely use office space it is lining up to use as part of the Choice Neighborhood Initiative grant.

A source said a Water Street location is being considered. Law confirmed that.

“I think temporarily we would probably locate in those offices unless we found another building or something ever happened to South Main Street, but that would be a nice problem to have, where we are going to house it,” Law said.

He’d love it if the Housing Authority won the contract, he said.

“As other agencies, we are concerned about how we can move people up and out. Self-sufficiency is the name of the game, education services. Keeps the old bones – keeps me excited,” Law said.

The source suggested Law was looking to retire last summer, but was encouraged to stay in the game.

“I’m always going to retire. There’s always one more mountain to climb; I’m like an old gunfighter,” Law said.

DSS says it has $869,008 to fund the agency, but some observers question the long-term viability of this plan as Gov. Dannel Malloy has proposed to eliminate the Human Services Infrastructure (HSI) funding from the state’s 2016-17 budget.

Community Action Agency of Western Connecticut Executive Director Michelle James asked about this at the bidders conference.

“That was actually taken into consideration with the actual funding sources that are actually done,” Norfleet-Johnson said.

There are federal dollars available and other funding sources, she said.

DSS has a written response to the questions on its website:

“State Human Services Infrastructure (HSI) monies are one (1) of three (3) funding streams identified in this procurement. If State HSI is eliminated, the Department will fund procurement at a lesser amount that would include federal monies only. Section 1.A.3. Contract Offers identifies the 3 funding streams. (See Page 4 of RFQ).

“Under the HSI funding source, the breakout is as follows:

Type of funding Allocation

State HSI -SFY 2015 $255,546.00

Federal HSI – FFY 2015 $87,279.00

Federal HSI – FFY 2016 $87,279.00

(total) $430,104.00

This is also spelled out in the RFQ:

“In addition to CSBG (Community Services Block Grant) funding, each CAA receives an allocation from the state’s HSI program. For State Fiscal Year 2015, Greater Norwalk catchment’s share of HSI funding is $255,546.00. Please note that these funds are one-time funding and all costs must be incurred no later than June 10, 2015. For Federal Fiscal Year 2015, Greater Norwalk catchment’s share of federal –HSI funding is $87,279.00. For Federal Fiscal Year 2016, Greater Norwalk catchment’s share of federal – HSI funding is $87,279.00. Federal HSI funding is $87,279.00 annually.”

NHA CSBG LOI 2015

Comments

7 responses to “Norwalk Housing Authority looks to take NEON’s place”

  1. Casey Smith

    I can get behind this easily. No problem at all. For what it is worth, you have my full support, Curtis.

  2. Mrs. Ruby McPherson

    I jobs are posted and not just in the dark. There were good people who work in HR and Energy who knew this community.

  3. Oldtimer

    NHA certainly has the expertise in dealing with the community. Expanding their service beyond housing will be a challenge, but not insurmountable. They need to be very selective in hiring qualified people, and very careful setting up accounting systems that will satisfy the auditors. They have been dealing with a lot of the challenges already with the services they presently deliver. It will be interesting to see who else bids, and what experience and qualifications they can offer.

  4. piberman

    Given the extraordinary mismanagement of NEON and its Board and failed oversight leadership by the community having a designated Council member and an official from the Finance Department would be approriate along with periodic financial reports to the City. Long past time to exclude political community figures from oversight of such an important agency.

  5. Bill

    If we had more Pro-jobs agencies, we would need less tax leeching anti-poverty agencies.

  6. John Levin

    The demise of NEON surely creates opportunities to ensure that its successor is a stronger and more effective organization. Perhaps ensure that any successor have in place each of a written (1) ethics policy, (2) conflict of interest policy, (3) reporting and transparency policy? And, of course, these must include clear nepotism policies, right?

  7. Steve Serasis

    I can tell you from experience having worked very closely with Curtis Law while I served as the youth services director at neon, until I eft for philosophical differences, and was on the executive board. Every single program I did with Mr. Law for youth, and for young adult achievement was the best collaboration I’ve ever seen. I was tod by NEON that NHA had ill intentions. Quite the opposite. And new Executive Director Mike Callis and I formed a new relationship with the NHA dedicated to hep youth in need. NHA operates with integrity and intelligence when under the careful watch of Major Domo Curtis Law. This is not only a good fit, but the best fit.

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