[Hpn] New Haven, CT - Homeless Tent City remains on city Green - New Haven Register - September 28, 2002

H. C. Covington H. C. Covington" <hccjr@bellsouth.net
Sat, 28 Sep 2002 08:28:17 -0500

Homeless remain on city Green

A tent city will rise each night on the Green, according to
Duff Morton, "until people have a safe place to stay."

"I hope that happens tomorrow night," Morton said with a
chuckle. "But it might be until December."
Joseph Straw - New Haven Register - September 28, 2002

When much of the city and the country were marking the first
anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Morton was planning the
sleep-out, which has continued every night since near Trinity
Church on the Green at Chapel and Temple Streets.

Morton, who helps run the Respect Line assistance hot line for
the city's homeless, and others undertook the camp-outs to
protest the city's closure of its overflow shelter on Cedar
Street Sept. 1.

Attendance on the Green reached a high of 115 people one night
this week. Thursday night 57 people slept out, 52 of them
homeless, and 51 of them from New Haven.

People's food options include the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen,
which serves meals at rotating locations each night, while charities
like Bridgeport's Night Runners serve food to the demonstrators and
homeless on the Green late each evening.

"The police have been great," Morton said. "They've been helpful
when we've had problems, and they haven't given us any. The parks
department employees have been supportive."

The Cedar Street closure accompanied the institution of a 90-day
length-of-stay guideline for the city's remaining 75-bed homeless
shelter, operated by Immanuel Baptist Shelter Inc. at 645 Grand Ave.

A two-year survey of guests in the city's two shelters found that
many lived in the shelter for years without addressing the issues
that drove them there — mental illness, addiction, or lack of education.

Many clients also came to the shelters from other towns, the survey found.

Administrators said that attendance at the two shelters dropped
briefly at the beginning of each month.

The reason, they said: residents cashed government entitlement
checks, rented hotel rooms, bought drugs and alcohol, got high,
then came back to the shelters when they ran out of money.

The closure, officials said, was also a message to the state and
surrounding municipalities, which the city officials said do not
carry their weight in addressing the issue of homelessness.

The city spends more on homeless services - $1.4 million annually
- than any other municipality in the state.

And all the action was recommended by the city's Homeless
Advisory Commission, composed in part of currently or formerly
homeless people.

The new 90-day plan, similar to one employed at the private,
100-bed Columbus House at Ella T. Grasso Blvd., requires new
guests to set "life" goals within 30 days of their arrival, and work
toward them during the next 60.

If they don't make an effort, they are out. If after 90 days they
are making an effort, but haven't found a job or accommodations,
they can stay.

City Community Services Administrator Sheila Allen-Bell said that
to her knowledge, all of the clients now at the Grand Avenue
shelter are with the program.

Morton, however, argued that throwing out the roughly 50 people
using the overflow shelter, and throwing others out after 90 days
will not help those with problems such as mental illness.

"I don't think someone's going to stop hallucinating because
they've been forced to sleep outside," Morton said.

The overflow shelter will re-open during periods of extremely
cold weather, as it did prior to 2001.

In addition to beds reserved for guests at Columbus House on its
90-day plan, a limited number of "emergency" beds are available
on a first-come, first-served basis.

Homeless Advisory Commission member Alderman Benjamin Healey,
D-1, has introduced a resolution on the new shelter policies for
a vote by the Board of Aldermen.

Healey said he hopes a vote will legitimize the policy, but also
educate the city's lawmakers about holes elsewhere in the state's
social services system like "transitional" housing, and possibly
spur the state to act on them.

"I think it's important that the board say whether the 90-day
policy is a solution, or just part of the solution. I think it's
just part of the solution," Healey said.

Morton said that despite disagreement with Healey over the 90-day
policy, he and others want to work with him and the city.

"We're excited about working with the city to find a creative
solution. We're working with Ben to do that," Morton said.

Eddie Lopez of New Haven, a former computer technician who has
been homeless for close to six months and has been sleeping on
the Green since the demonstration began, said the answer goes
beyond the city and City Hall.

"We need a more broad-based solution," Lopez said.

Joseph Straw jstraw@nhregister.com or at 789-5714.
©New Haven Register 2002
source page:
Homeless Daily News  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HomelessNews/