Our founder and president, Michael Oles, is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel with over 32 years of experience as a volunteer and coordinator working with the homeless. Joe Simons is the Chairman of the Board and coordination director for the Connecticut chapters. Joe retired from IBM with 32 years experience as a volunteer and coordinator working with the homeless. Our remaining board members include, among others, a former CPA, an attorney, a former director of Welfare from the City of Danbury, a local business owner, a volunteer from Dorothy Day Hospitality House and Danbury Hospital, another retired IBM executive and a business owner, both of whom co-volunteer with Brothership in Action and a Bethel Housing Authority employee. Two of our directors are clergymen.
The life-changing event for Oles happened when he saw a homeless man on a cold winter’s day in one of local Connecticut shelters give up his bed to a homeless woman. “The only possession he had was a bed, and he gave it away. That was a total eye-opener for me” Oles said. Later, Oles with another homeless person spoke to students at a local school about homelessness. The students were inspired to take action and raised money for the homeless person to get off the streets. Oles was struck with their generosity and energy, which eventually pushed him to action. “Students have great idealism, and often as adults we lose that. They pushed me to do more,” he explained.
Soon afterwards, Oles founded the original chapter in Danbury in 2009. There are three other chapters: one in Bridgeport/Fairfield/Trumbull area (3 years old), another in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (4 years) and an affiliated chapter from Huntington Beach, California (separate legal entity and 3 years old).
OTS Inc. is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) and nondenominational organization. Its primary mission is to fund the security deposits on modest apartments and provide initial living needs for homeless families/individuals.
How OTS Operates
How does Off The Streets Work?
The mission of Off The Streets is to house the homeless one person at a time. Off The Streets provides security deposits and basic furniture and living needs for those homeless people who have no other means of providing these, but do have a means of paying a monthly rent. OTS’s mode of operations involves:
- OTS works with local social service agencies dealing with homelessness and those in danger of becoming homeless. The social workers screen the candidates to make sure they have sufficient income to pay rent on an ongoing basis. Some of them have pensions or disability income or employment or combination thereof. Once the families are housed, the social workers provide ongoing case management to ensure the transition is going well.
- OTS does not rely on national, state or local government funds.
- OTS relies totally on a volunteer staff.
- OTS can act very quickly; the transition from homelessness to a furnished room or apartment can take place within a week. We provide the following kinds of help:
- Paying security deposits for modest apartments;
- Delivering used furniture and household items;
The model used by OTS is called Housing First and is now accepted as the most effective method of placing homeless people into housing. Housing First approach is based on the concept that a homeless individual or household’s first and primary need is to obtain stable housing, and that other issues that may affect the household can and should be addressed once housing is obtained.
In our three year history, our greater Bridgeport chapter has placed 145 people into housing.
Services and Results
Often, the only thing preventing someone from being housed is the security deposit. As part of OTS services it generally pays the security deposit directly to the landlord. OTS’ process can usually provide a fully furnished apartment in as little as two to fourteen days. OTS provides basic household goods (furniture, bedding, etc.) to help give our clients a fresh start.
Getting out of homelessness will be a life-changing experience for those directly impacted as well as provide them with the self-esteem that comes from renting their own apartment. Reducing the number of homeless people reduces the medical treatment, incarceration, police intervention and emergency shelter expenses for municipalities and taxpayers.
To be able to get an individual off the streets one at a time totally transform the lives of the people who will no longer be homeless. Once they have a permanent roof over their heads, they can concentrate on getting the rest of their lives in order. It gives hope and inspiration to other homeless people as they struggle to escape from shelters and the streets.
The results of this effort for the greater Bridgeport area:
- In 2017, our chapter placed 70 individuals;
- Inception to date total placements were 145 persons;
- Women represented 33%, children 53% and men 14% of the total placements in 2017;
- Based on prior sampling we have found that 80% remained housed for at least a period of six months;
- No paid staff and low overhead expenses.
Except for insurance, storage rentals for furniture and required government filings our overhead is relatively minor. Most funds contributed go directly to support of our mission. We have found that it costs approximately $500 per homeless person in Fairfield County to get Off the Streets.