Spotlight on Service: Preventing Homelessness in Connecticut with Jessica Kubicki

Meet Jessica Kubicki, who has worked tirelessly to end all forms of homelessness for the past ten years. Jessica is the Chief Initiative Officer at The Housing Collective – the backbone and designated lead of Connecticut's homelessness response system, otherwise referred to as the Coordinated Access Network (CAN). She is responsible for supporting organizations working to prevent and end homelessness and secure stable, affordable housing for everyone.

In her role, Jessica supports the entire homeless response system. She works on one of The Housing Collective’s core initiatives, Opening Doors Fairfield County, which coordinates prevention, housing, employment, advocacy and services strategies for approximately 800 adults and children experiencing homelessness in Fairfield County just this year. We caught up with her in August to hear her story.

How did you get into this work?

Knowing that we live in a country and a state without a right to shelter or housing, when housing is a basic human right, feels awful. That’s why I strive to eradicate homelessness in all its forms every day. I have always been passionate about helping people. I am a licensed clinical social worker and have done a spectrum of services, including substance abuse and outpatient therapy. More recently I have leaned towards homelessness in Connecticut and the US by working at one of our member agencies before moving to The Housing Collective, where we strive to provide housing for about 3,000 people in Connecticut.

What are your key priorities and responsibilities on your plate today?

It's our job as The Housing Collective to support those in the field, and bring resources and connectivity to our community to support their important work. My responsibilities change every minute. My job is to make myself available to staff who are championing different parts of the system, ranging from expanding rapid re-housing to providing immediate assistance for homeless youth. Given my experience in the field, I’m able to make sure their work is understood and that they have the tools and resources they need to be successful.

I’m also responsible for policy and system-level work. I constantly advocate for us to get more money to do our job, which, as you might expect, is an everyday battle.

This work is hard. What gets you out of bed in the morning/keeps you motivated?

Our mission to end all forms of homelessness is reason enough to stay motivated. My coworkers also keep me motivated. I work with amazing people who engage every day in thoughtful, strategic conversations about how to always do better. We are a mission-driven  group of dedicated people who work hard and thrive together.

What is something you’ve worked on that you’re proud of?

Personally, in my overall career, it would be getting my clinical social work license. It was not an easy feat, and I recommend everybody to do it even if you don't use it in the traditional sense. Even though I am not diagnosing individuals or doing traditional therapy in my role, I have found the skills I’ve learned from the degree to be immensely useful in my role.

Within The Housing Collective specifically, we have accomplished so much to be proud of over the years. Expanding locations, learning about new communities, and engaging with new partners has been an exciting journey alongside establishing new grants and positions.

What value do you see in learning from your peers?

I fundamentally believe that we are never done learning, and we are never perfect. We may be content experts on something and love to share that knowledge, but there is always something to be learned from colleagues who are content experts in other topics. I just got back from a national conference, where I felt so invigorated listening and learning from content experts across the US who address different types of challenges but are all working towards the same goal.

How is Roundtable helpful to you?

Last year, feedback from providers highlighted the need for streamlined communication. Roundtable has made it incredibly easy for providers to keep track of and find essential resources, which is something they struggled with amid our countless emails. Roundtable has also rekindled peer connections and a sense of community and camaraderie among our providers across geographical areas and different levels within organizations that we lost due to virtual meetings. Since launch, it’s been great to see over 50 providers logging in and engaging with the platform. For example, someone recently posted an open position for bilingual staff, and the community offered support to circulate the opportunity and share potential candidates. Roundtable's personalized approach encourages open conversations and fosters meaningful relationships with partner agencies, ensuring cohesive collaboration in our operations.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to / is about to enter your field?

Know why you’re coming into this field and what keeps you motivated because social work is not easy, and doesn’t pay. Seek agencies with good organizational support and ensure you have a great support system and mechanism to take care of yourself. As a provider, you need an appropriate outlet to prevent turnover and burnout. Recognize that you can’t save the entire world because once you recognize that, every little success feels amazing! I go to work every day knowing I cannot save every person but that I am making an impact on people, and that’s what you have to take away. Come in ready to work hard, and have realistic expectations about yourself.