[Hpn] Hartford, CT - Homeless Shelter WillingTo Leave Changing Street - Hartford Courant - August 14 2002

Editor Editor <hccjr@bellsouth.net>
Wed, 14 Aug 2002 22:06:45 -0500

Homeless Shelter Willing To Leave Changing Street

Patti White, executive director of the shelter, told audience
members at a forum on Park Street's future that the shelter is
working with neighborhood leaders to find a new location. 

By STEVEN GOODE - Hartford Courant - August 14 2002

The Immaculate Conception Shelter - a haven for homeless men but
a source of controversy for those trying to improve Park Street -
is willing to move away within a few years, its executive
director said Tuesday.

Patti White, executive director of the shelter, told audience
members at a forum on Park Street's future that the shelter is
working with neighborhood leaders to find a new location. 

The shelter, which accepts patrons who are intoxicated, has been the
focus of complaints about crime on the street. 

Police officers and others say it attracts drug dealers and addicts who
panhandle, steal or urinate on the sidewalk.

"We're working collectively to move our organization off of Park
and Hungerford streets," White said. "I imagine that within a few
years we'll have been able to move."

Tuesday's gathering of 250 Hartford residents, business and
political leaders was held to discuss how to transform Park
Street into a pedestrian-friendly destination with thriving shops
and restaurants, a cultural center and housing.

A key to that transformation, panelists at the Courant-sponsored
forum at the Learning Corridor said, is changing the perception
that Park Street is a rough area.

"We need to make people feel safe so they aren't afraid to walk a
block after they park their car," said panelist Carlos Lopez, a
Park Street developer and business owner.

Aside from safety concerns, which organizers said will be eased
further by security personnel carrying walkie-talkies,
participants discussed vacant lots and parking with metered
spaces as possibilities for easing congestion.

The panel, which included longtime resident Ruth Martinez,
Spanish American Merchants Association executive director Julio
Mendoza, Evolution Health CEO Robert Patricelli and Hartford
Mayor Eddie A. Perez, also discussed the $6 million worth of
street improvements already underway.

Mendoza said the money will be used for planting trees and
installing flower boxes; improving lighting, bus shelters and
gateways; updating traffic signals and making intersections safer
for pedestrians.

"People will say `We are proud of what we have here,'" Mendoza

The street will also see an influx of money for improvements from
its recent conversion to a special services district. The
district is made up of about 110 property owners who will be
assessed a tax rate of up to 3 mills higher than the city's
current rate of 48 mills. The city's tax rate translates into $48
for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

In return, the funds will be pumped back into the neighborhood
for landscaping, marketing, street and sidewalk improvements,
security, parking and snow removal. Organizers expect to raise
$400,000 to $500,000 in the district's first year.

Martinez, who has been a Park Street resident since 1983, said
organizers of the special district and those working to improve
the street should be commended for their vision and courage.

"We need risk-takers," she said.

Perez also applauded the sacrifice the business community and
residents are making by paying additional taxes, but said there
are going to be challenges in keeping the community engaged and
making the right decisions when it comes to land use.

"We need to get it right," Perez said. "We can't get it half-right." 

Copyright 2002, Hartford Courant
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