Celebrating Women in Leadership: Christie Stewart
Mar 19, 2023
During Women’s History Month, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is profiling pioneering Women leaders who have made a mark on our community. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing stories of these important figures and showcasing their work to make Fairfield County and our state a stronger, more equitable community.
Chief Initiative Officer, Center for Housing Opportunity
A southern California native and graduate of Duke University, Christie Stewart started her career as a television production coordinator.
But it was the real-life scenes that she couldn’t turn away from that put her on the path to ultimately becoming the Chief Initiative Officer for the Center for Housing Opportunity, an initiative of the Housing Collective in Bridgeport, a nonprofit that works to ensure equitable access to safe, stable, and affordable housing in multiple regions throughout the state.
Nearly every day while she was working in television, Stewart and her two young sons would drive by families experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. The boys would ask their mom why these families did not have a place to live.
“I realized that I couldn’t answer their question about why that was until I educated myself about it, and things just took off from there,” Stewart said.
So, she began volunteering at family shelters with her kids, and worked to address street homelessness in Los Angeles. What she witnessed was life-changing.
“It’s hard enough to be a parent when everything is going great,” she said. “But to be a parent and to not be able to tuck your kids into bed at night or feed them a meal because you don’t know where you’re going to sleep – I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.”
Chief Initiative Officer
Center for Housing Opportunity
In 2010, she founded Moving Families Forward, Inc. – a nonprofit to help Los Angeles families transitioning from shelters to furnish their homes. The idea grew out of Stewart learning that after moving into new apartments, some families would end up back on the streets or in shelters because they didn’t have basic household necessities such as beds, sheets, tables, lamps, and chairs.
For three years Stewart served as the executive director, and she and her friends operated the nonprofit out of a warehouse.
She continued this work until her husband accepted a new job in Connecticut. So, in 2013, she and her family relocated to Fairfield County.
“When I moved here, I took some time to look around at the landscape and at organizations that were thinking about and leading on the issues of homelessness and housing,” she said.
She began working at New Reach, Inc. in New Haven, serving as the director of special projects and later as the director of development.
In 2018, she started her work with the Housing Collective, establishing Fairfield County’s Center for Housing Opportunity (FC-CHO) and serving as its inaugural director. In this position, she engaged with regional stakeholders, raised money for funding, and assisted in the start-up of FC-CHO, which has become a thought leader in the state’s housing sector over the last five years.
Promoted to Chief Initiative Officer in 2021, Stewart has been instrumental in establishing strategic partnerships and collaborating with other nonprofit leaders, volunteers, and community activists to create systems change that will allow everyone access to equitable, safe, and affordable housing.
When she isn’t facilitating regional meetings, giving presentations or helping people understand possible housing solutions and how they can positively impact an entire community, Stewart volunteers as an advisory member for the CT Age Well Collaborative.
Humbled by the hundreds of people she has the privilege of working with every day, Stewart hopes to see a day when every household in Fairfield County has access to a safe and affordable place to live — and that other communities are able to mirror the work being done to achieve the same.
“In the last four years, we’ve gone from a concept that sought a real answer to regional housing challenges, to becoming a thought leader in this space,” said Stewart. “We’ve established strategic partnerships with community foundations in multiple regions and created a true collective impact initiative that is changing the housing system in CT. It has been rewarding to see and I am most proud of that.”
About Fairfield County’s Center for Housing Opportunity
FC-CHO is a coordinated, regional response to address the shortage of housing in Fairfield County, CT, and make housing affordable to people of all incomes and at all stages of life.
It is driven by founding partners Fairfield County’s Community Foundation (FCCF), Regional Plan Association (RPA), Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC), and Supportive Housing Works (SHW) as a platform for the four founding partners – and its entire stakeholder network – to draw on, integrate, and share resources and data across organizations, utilizing a collaborative, data-driven framework, and aligning regional resources to deliver impactful system change and equitable housing solutions.
The Center leverages regional and statewide expertise from for-profit and nonprofit housing developers, regional anchor institutions (colleges & universities, hospitals, etc.), and partners in municipal government, community organizations, nonprofit service providers, funders, and business leaders.
The Center for Housing Opportunity’s collective impact approach addresses Fairfield County’s widening opportunity gap, which negatively impacts the region’s economy and disproportionately affects minority, low-income, and disadvantaged households.
Join us in person at the Greenwich Hyatt or virtually via our live stream for our Fund for Women & Girls 2023 Luncheon! Get inspired by keynote speaker Misty Copeland, learn about our newest signature initiative, and support women and girls across Fairfield County in achieving their best lives. Learn more and get tickets.