[Hpn] Counting the Homeless to Help End Their Plight

Janine Larose janinelarose@hotmail.com
Tue, 26 Feb 2008 20:03:31 +0000


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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/26/nyregion/26homeless.html?th&emc=3Dth
 Counting the Homeless to Help End Their Plight=20
=20
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Debbie Fisk, right, and volunteers talking with a man named Victor during a=
 count of the homeless population in New Haven. The survey helps the city g=
et federal money to fight homelessness.=20
=20
By ALISON LEIGH COWAN
Published: February 26, 2008

NEW HAVEN =97 Looming over a shuttered nightclub by Interstate 91 is a bill=
board featuring fistfuls of cash and a brassy promise that Connecticut Lott=
ery players could win $100,000 a year in perpetuity and be =93Set for Life.=
=94
Steps away, in the brush behind a fence, lives a man named Joe whose life i=
s far from set.
A former roofer who suffers from anxiety, Joe said he has lived for the pas=
t two years in his makeshift hideaway under the stars, surviving mainly by =
scrounging metal that he turns into jewelry or sells to recyclers for about=
 $50 a week. He said he does not take drugs, but the volunteers who encount=
ered him one recent night as they trekked through the city=92s vacant lots =
and alleyways for the state=92s annual count of the homeless said he someti=
mes steals bicycles to support a crack cocaine habit.
As the temperature dipped into the 20s, Joe accepted a pair of gloves and a=
 flashlight. But he declined a ride to a shelter or to avail himself of soc=
ial services that could lead to longer-term help.=20
=93The shelters are filled with drunks, addicts and thieves, and the little=
 I have, I=92d like to hang on to,=94 said Joe, who asked to be identified =
only by his first name. =93Since I=92ve been staying outside, I haven=92t g=
otten a cold or flu,=94 he added. =93I manage to stay warm.=94
Asked if there was anything more he needed, Joe told the volunteers: =93No,=
 unless you have an old laptop so I could put my stuff on eBay.=94
And so Joe was counted, as part of an annual ritual in which volunteers her=
e fanned out from 7 to 9 on a designated winter night to take stock of the =
homelessness problem. This year=92s tally will not be available until at le=
ast March, but last year, New Haven reported 778 homeless people, roughly a=
 fifth of the total counted statewide.
New Haven is among some 4,000 communities nationwide that have been partici=
pating in the surveys =97 coordinated to avoid double-counting the itineran=
t homeless =97 since January 2005; in recognition of the principle that you=
 cannot manage what you do not measure, those that count at least every oth=
er year are rewarded in their competition for federal money.
=20
=93This is an essential business practice that was not being practiced,=94 =
said Philip F. Mangano, who has served as the Bush administration=92s homel=
essness czar since 2002, running a council that coordinates homeless-relate=
d services among 20 federal agencies. Mr. Mangano, who previously worked as=
 an advocate for the homeless in Massachusetts, refers to homeless people a=
s =93consumers=94 and compares his work to the abolition movement.
=20
Washington has increased financing to fight homelessness every year since 2=
005, and President Bush is proposing $5 billion =97 a 3 percent increase ov=
er last year =97 for fiscal 2009. Connecticut=92s count cost about $100,000=
 =97 $20,000 for equipment like flashlights and refreshments for the volunt=
eers, the rest to pay analysts to go over the data =97 and was paid for by =
state agencies and private grants.
Over all, officials estimate there are 750,000 Americans who are homeless o=
n any given night, one in five of them considered chronically homeless. But=
 counting them is not as simple as it sounds.
=20
=20
One man collecting cans on Chapel Street insisted he was not homeless, sayi=
ng he would catch a bus home when he finished. The volunteers were not sure=
 whether to count him. Another man dressed in camouflage attire walked by w=
ithout being approached. =93College student,=94 guessed Debbie Fisk, the so=
cial worker guiding the three-volunteer team that let him pass.
=20
As the director of outreach for the Connecticut Mental Health Center, Ms. F=
isk is familiar with many of the street people by name and habit, and can o=
ften spot their calling cards.
This year, she started her search on Water Street, where several major road=
s intersect overhead like spaghetti. She and her two counting comrades sque=
ezed through a gap in a fence and braved a thicket of thorns to reach an em=
bankment filled with makeshift tents.
=93Victor?=94 she called over and over, beaming a flashlight into the emban=
kment. There was no response.
=20
Over near Chestnut Street, Ms. Fisk found another pied-=E0-terre under a hi=
ghway overpass, but still no occupants. Her fellow volunteer Joe Parente, a=
 vice president at Easter Seals Goodwill Industries, spotted a pillow, blan=
ket, toothpaste, soap, cologne, reading material, condoms, and a length of =
pipe that, he posited, the occupant =93probably uses for protection.=94 Nea=
rby, another cubbyhole featured a stuffed bear, caked in dust.
Underpasses are popular living areas, Ms. Fisk said, because they protect a=
gainst the elements and are hard to spot from the street. Still, she knows =
one longtime occupant who ended up with dangerous levels of carbon monoxide=
 in his blood.
=20
Strolling by was a man who seemed delusional. He was happy to talk and be c=
ounted. Asked if his bed was nearby, he said, =93Yeah, but before I sleep, =
I=92m watching the children.=94
=20
=93That=92s Victor,=94 Ms. Fisk said once he passed. =93He=92s been sleepin=
g outside for 14 years.=94 She added: =93We=92ve offered him subsidized hou=
sing, but he=92s too paranoid.=94
New Haven is one of about 325 cities and counties around the nation that in=
 recent years have devised ambitious 10-year plans not just to reduce homel=
essness, but also to end it. And New Haven is serious. Local property taxes=
 finance emergency shelters. Top officials chart the city=92s progress and =
press Hartford and Washington for support.=20
=20
But sometimes it seems that the more services a city offers, the more homel=
ess people seem to gravitate to its streets. Advocates say it is no coincid=
ence that Connecticut=92s Department of Correction sometimes discharges inm=
ates to New Haven, where those without stable homes will be cared for.=20
=20
=93We are faced with endless problems like that,=94 said Alison Cunningham,=
 the executive director of Columbus House, a nonprofit operator of shelters=
 and housing in New Haven.
As rain pelted New Haven one night this month, the men=92s shelter on Grand=
 Avenue and the overflow shelter on Cedar Street were both near capacity by=
 nightfall.
Shelter operators do not like to turn anyone away, but =93at some point if =
it gets too full, we don=92t have enough cots,=94 Ms. Cunningham said. The =
Cedar Street shelter has an official capacity of 75, she added, but =93we=
=92ve reached 125 on some nights.=94=20
Just last week, the city used the gymnasium of a school that was on break a=
s a =93temporary overflow to the overflow,=94 Ms. Cunningham said, to house=
 35 men who had nowhere else to go. She has been running Columbus House for=
 10 years and said she cannot remember a time with demand this high.
=20
=93It=92s people struggling with the cost of living, people not being able =
to keep up with rent and the increase in the bills they have,=94 she said. =
=93This is a very tough economy, and it=92s really telling now that we see =
more people bailing out of housing because they can=92t afford it.=94
=20
Mondale McIntyre, a soft-spoken Bridgeport native, arrived early enough to =
snare a spot in the Grand Avenue shelter. He said he had spent 7 of his 30 =
years behind bars for drug-related infractions and recently lost a $100-a-d=
ay job laminating phone book covers in West Haven for a subcontractor of AT=
&T.
=20
Mr. McIntyre said that he was raised by his grandparents in North Carolina =
after his parents ended up =93on the street,=94 and that he once wanted to =
be a zoologist, but put that dream aside =93because I got into trouble.=94
=20
=93When you=92re young and nobody really wants to hire you, the only thing =
you really can do is sell drugs,=94 he said ruefully. =93Being a young Afri=
can-American coming up in the streets,=94 he says, he can see how becoming =
a drug dealer, with all the trappings =93is almost a goal,=94 much like =93=
a white man in Greenwich might want to be a doctor or lawyer because that=
=92s what he=92s around.=94
=20
He said he could stay with a sister in New Britain, but worried that if he =
did, he would not push himself to get off her couch and out of his rut. =93=
I left to come here, so I can better myself,=94 he said.
=20
But on Feb. 1, New Haven police investigating a nearby disturbance discover=
ed a 2-year-old warrant for Mr. McIntyre=92s arrest, stemming from a drug s=
ale in Middletown.
The authorities took him into custody and confiscated his belongings. They =
refused to store the items, and demanded to know where they could be shippe=
d. He gave his sister=92s address, but he said the package has yet to turn =
up.=20
=20
Released from jail 11 days later, he left with nothing but the brown prison=
 uniform on his back.=20
=20
=93Everything I had on me that day =97 my birth certificate, my Social Secu=
rity card, my identification, my life=94 was taken, Mr. McIntyre said. =93I=
 can=92t get a job now because I don=92t have my ID.=94
=20
For six years now, Unchu Yu, 55, a Korean-born woman living in Bethany, awa=
its New Haven=92s homeless each Sunday at 7 a.m., with coffee, doughnuts an=
d whatever else she can whip up, from spring rolls to Italian wedding soup.
Most weekdays, churches in New Haven furnish breakfast for the homeless, bu=
t on Sundays, churches have services. So Ms. Yu, who is known as Jacky, per=
suaded Trinity Lutheran Church to lend her a kitchen and a meeting room. =
=93If I don=92t make food, they=92ve got no place to go,=94 she said of the=
 people who are expected to vacate the shelters by 7:30 each morning.
=20
Called Agape Church, her gathering is a family affair. Her husband, Siyoung=
 Yu, who works for a computer company, frequently delivers a sermon while s=
he cooks. =93It=92s not like a normal church,=94 she said, acknowledging th=
at the couple could be accused of giving =93the same sermon all the time.=
=94 Mostly, she explained, they urge visitors to =93try to stay with God=94=
 and =93get off drugs and alcohol.=94
=93They listen,=94 she said.
=20
After worship, Ms. Yu offers rides to anyone who wants to look for work or =
housing. She has also co-signed leases and helped with payments needed to s=
ecure an apartment. =93People think I=92m crazy, but this brings so much ha=
ppiness for me,=94 she said.
A Cheshire church provides Agape with gift-wrapped boots each Christmas. Th=
e company that runs Quinnipiac University=92s dining services sends soup.
=20
But some of Ms. Yu=92s supporters suffer fatigue, as homelessness never see=
ms to fade. Ms. Yu raises money each year to try to extend the months that =
some local shelters operate.=20
=20
=93We raised four months of money in 2002,=94 she said. =93In 2003, we rais=
ed three months and in 2004, we raised two months. Every year, it=92s the s=
ame kind of problem, all the time.=94
_________________________________________________________________


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<A href=3D"http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/26/nyregion/26homeless.html?th&am=
p;emc=3Dth">http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/26/nyregion/26homeless.html?th&a=
mp;emc=3Dth</A><BR>
&nbsp;<BR>Counting the Homeless to Help End Their Plight </NYT_HEADLINE>
<DIV class=3Dimage id=3DwideImage><IMG height=3D300 alt=3D"" src=3D"http://=
graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/02/26/nyregion/26homeless.600.jpg" width=
=3D600 border=3D0>=20
<DIV class=3Dcredit>Ruth Fremson/The New York Times</DIV>
<P class=3Dcaption>Debbie Fisk, right, and volunteers talking with a man na=
med Victor during a count of the homeless population in New Haven. The surv=
ey helps the city get federal money to fight homelessness. </P></DIV>
&nbsp;<BR>
<DIV class=3Dbyline>By <A title=3D"More Articles by Alison Leigh Cowan" hre=
f=3D"http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/alison_le=
igh_cowan/index.html?inline=3Dnyt-per"><U><FONT color=3D#0000ff>ALISON LEIG=
H COWAN</FONT></U></A></DIV></NYT_BYLINE>
<DIV class=3Dtimestamp>Published: February 26, 2008</DIV>
<DIV id=3DarticleBody><NYT_TEXT>
NEW HAVEN =97 Looming over a shuttered nightclub by Interstate 91 is a bill=
board featuring fistfuls of cash and a brassy promise that Connecticut Lott=
ery players could win $100,000 a year in perpetuity and be =93Set for Life.=
=94<BR>
Steps away, in the brush behind a fence, lives a man named Joe whose life i=
s far from set.<BR>
A former roofer who suffers from anxiety, Joe said he has lived for the pas=
t two years in his makeshift hideaway under the stars, surviving mainly by =
scrounging metal that he turns into jewelry or sells to recyclers for about=
 $50 a week. He said he does not take drugs, but the volunteers who encount=
ered him one recent night as they trekked through the city=92s vacant lots =
and alleyways for the state=92s annual count of the homeless said he someti=
mes steals bicycles to support a crack cocaine habit.<BR>
As the temperature dipped into the 20s, Joe accepted a pair of gloves and a=
 flashlight. But he declined a ride to a shelter or to avail himself of soc=
ial services that could lead to longer-term help. <BR>
=93The shelters are filled with drunks, addicts and thieves, and the little=
 I have, I=92d like to hang on to,=94 said Joe, who asked to be identified =
only by his first name. =93Since I=92ve been staying outside, I haven=92t g=
otten a cold or flu,=94 he added. =93I manage to stay warm.=94<BR>
Asked if there was anything more he needed, Joe told the volunteers: =93No,=
 unless you have an old laptop so I could put my stuff on eBay.=94<BR>
And so Joe was counted, as part of an annual ritual in which volunteers her=
e fanned out from 7 to 9 on a designated winter night to take stock of the =
homelessness problem. This year=92s tally will not be available until at le=
ast March, but last year, New Haven reported 778 homeless people, roughly a=
 fifth of the total counted statewide.<BR>
New Haven is among some 4,000 communities nationwide that have been partici=
pating in the surveys =97 coordinated to avoid double-counting the itineran=
t homeless =97 since January 2005; in recognition of the principle that you=
 cannot manage what you do not measure, those that count at least every oth=
er year are rewarded in their competition for federal money.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
=93This is an essential business practice that was not being practiced,=94 =
said Philip F. Mangano, who has served as the Bush administration=92s homel=
essness czar since 2002, running a council that coordinates homeless-relate=
d services among 20 federal agencies. Mr. Mangano, who previously worked as=
 an advocate for the homeless in Massachusetts, refers to homeless people a=
s =93consumers=94 and compares his work to the abolition movement.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
Washington has increased financing to fight homelessness every year since 2=
005, and President Bush is proposing $5 billion =97 a 3 percent increase ov=
er last year =97 for fiscal 2009. Connecticut=92s count cost about $100,000=
 =97 $20,000 for equipment like flashlights and refreshments for the volunt=
eers, the rest to pay analysts to go over the data =97 and was paid for by =
state agencies and private grants.<BR>
Over all, officials estimate there are 750,000 Americans who are homeless o=
n any given night, one in five of them considered chronically homeless. But=
 counting them is not as simple as it sounds.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
One man collecting cans on Chapel Street insisted he was not homeless, sayi=
ng he would catch a bus home when he finished. The volunteers were not sure=
 whether to count him. Another man dressed in camouflage attire walked by w=
ithout being approached. =93College student,=94 guessed Debbie Fisk, the so=
cial worker guiding the three-volunteer team that let him pass.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
As the director of outreach for the Connecticut Mental Health Center, Ms. F=
isk is familiar with many of the street people by name and habit, and can o=
ften spot their calling cards.<BR>
This year, she started her search on Water Street, where several major road=
s intersect overhead like spaghetti. She and her two counting comrades sque=
ezed through a gap in a fence and braved a thicket of thorns to reach an em=
bankment filled with makeshift tents.<BR>
=93Victor?=94 she called over and over, beaming a flashlight into the emban=
kment. There was no response.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
Over near Chestnut Street, Ms. Fisk found another pied-=E0-terre under a hi=
ghway overpass, but still no occupants. Her fellow volunteer Joe Parente, a=
 vice president at Easter Seals Goodwill Industries, spotted a pillow, blan=
ket, toothpaste, soap, cologne, reading material, condoms, and a length of =
pipe that, he posited, the occupant =93probably uses for protection.=94 Nea=
rby, another cubbyhole featured a stuffed bear, caked in dust.<BR>
Underpasses are popular living areas, Ms. Fisk said, because they protect a=
gainst the elements and are hard to spot from the street. Still, she knows =
one longtime occupant who ended up with dangerous levels of carbon monoxide=
 in his blood.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
Strolling by was a man who seemed delusional. He was happy to talk and be c=
ounted. Asked if his bed was nearby, he said, =93Yeah, but before I sleep, =
I=92m watching the children.=94<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
=93That=92s Victor,=94 Ms. Fisk said once he passed. =93He=92s been sleepin=
g outside for 14 years.=94 She added: =93We=92ve offered him subsidized hou=
sing, but he=92s too paranoid.=94<BR>
New Haven is one of about 325 cities and counties around the nation that in=
 recent years have devised ambitious 10-year plans not just to reduce homel=
essness, but also to end it. And New Haven is serious. Local property taxes=
 finance emergency shelters. Top officials chart the city=92s progress and =
press Hartford and Washington for support. <BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
But sometimes it seems that the more services a city offers, the more homel=
ess people seem to gravitate to its streets. Advocates say it is no coincid=
ence that Connecticut=92s Department of Correction sometimes discharges inm=
ates to New Haven, where those without stable homes will be cared for. <BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
=93We are faced with endless problems like that,=94 said Alison Cunningham,=
 the executive director of Columbus House, a nonprofit operator of shelters=
 and housing in New Haven.<BR>
As rain pelted New Haven one night this month, the men=92s shelter on Grand=
 Avenue and the overflow shelter on Cedar Street were both near capacity by=
 nightfall.<BR>
Shelter operators do not like to turn anyone away, but =93at some point if =
it gets too full, we don=92t have enough cots,=94 Ms. Cunningham said. The =
Cedar Street shelter has an official capacity of 75, she added, but =93we=
=92ve reached 125 on some nights.=94 <BR>
Just last week, the city used the gymnasium of a school that was on break a=
s a =93temporary overflow to the overflow,=94 Ms. Cunningham said, to house=
 35 men who had nowhere else to go. She has been running Columbus House for=
 10 years and said she cannot remember a time with demand this high.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
=93It=92s people struggling with the cost of living, people not being able =
to keep up with rent and the increase in the bills they have,=94 she said. =
=93This is a very tough economy, and it=92s really telling now that we see =
more people bailing out of housing because they can=92t afford it.=94<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
Mondale McIntyre, a soft-spoken Bridgeport native, arrived early enough to =
snare a spot in the Grand Avenue shelter. He said he had spent 7 of his 30 =
years behind bars for drug-related infractions and recently lost a $100-a-d=
ay job laminating phone book covers in West Haven for a subcontractor of AT=
&amp;T.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
Mr. McIntyre said that he was raised by his grandparents in North Carolina =
after his parents ended up =93on the street,=94 and that he once wanted to =
be a zoologist, but put that dream aside =93because I got into trouble.=94<=
BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
=93When you=92re young and nobody really wants to hire you, the only thing =
you really can do is sell drugs,=94 he said ruefully. =93Being a young Afri=
can-American coming up in the streets,=94 he says, he can see how becoming =
a drug dealer, with all the trappings =93is almost a goal,=94 much like =93=
a white man in Greenwich might want to be a doctor or lawyer because that=
=92s what he=92s around.=94<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
He said he could stay with a sister in New Britain, but worried that if he =
did, he would not push himself to get off her couch and out of his rut. =93=
I left to come here, so I can better myself,=94 he said.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
But on Feb. 1, New Haven police investigating a nearby disturbance discover=
ed a 2-year-old warrant for Mr. McIntyre=92s arrest, stemming from a drug s=
ale in Middletown.<BR>
The authorities took him into custody and confiscated his belongings. They =
refused to store the items, and demanded to know where they could be shippe=
d. He gave his sister=92s address, but he said the package has yet to turn =
up. <BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
Released from jail 11 days later, he left with nothing but the brown prison=
 uniform on his back. <BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
=93Everything I had on me that day =97 my birth certificate, my Social Secu=
rity card, my identification, my life=94 was taken, Mr. McIntyre said. =93I=
 can=92t get a job now because I don=92t have my ID.=94<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
For six years now, Unchu Yu, 55, a Korean-born woman living in Bethany, awa=
its New Haven=92s homeless each Sunday at 7 a.m., with coffee, doughnuts an=
d whatever else she can whip up, from spring rolls to Italian wedding soup.=
<BR>
Most weekdays, churches in New Haven furnish breakfast for the homeless, bu=
t on Sundays, churches have services. So Ms. Yu, who is known as Jacky, per=
suaded Trinity Lutheran Church to lend her a kitchen and a meeting room. =
=93If I don=92t make food, they=92ve got no place to go,=94 she said of the=
 people who are expected to vacate the shelters by 7:30 each morning.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
Called Agape Church, her gathering is a family affair. Her husband, Siyoung=
 Yu, who works for a computer company, frequently delivers a sermon while s=
he cooks. =93It=92s not like a normal church,=94 she said, acknowledging th=
at the couple could be accused of giving =93the same sermon all the time.=
=94 Mostly, she explained, they urge visitors to =93try to stay with God=94=
 and =93get off drugs and alcohol.=94<BR>
=93They listen,=94 she said.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
After worship, Ms. Yu offers rides to anyone who wants to look for work or =
housing. She has also co-signed leases and helped with payments needed to s=
ecure an apartment. =93People think I=92m crazy, but this brings so much ha=
ppiness for me,=94 she said.<BR>
A Cheshire church provides Agape with gift-wrapped boots each Christmas. Th=
e company that runs <A title=3D"More articles about Quinnipiac University" =
href=3D"http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/q=
/quinnipiac_university/index.html?inline=3Dnyt-org"><U><FONT color=3D#0000f=
f>Quinnipiac University</FONT></U></A>=92s dining services sends soup.<BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
But some of Ms. Yu=92s supporters suffer fatigue, as homelessness never see=
ms to fade. Ms. Yu raises money each year to try to extend the months that =
some local shelters operate. <BR>
&nbsp;<BR>
=93We raised four months of money in 2002,=94 she said. =93In 2003, we rais=
ed three months and in 2004, we raised two months. Every year, it=92s the s=
ame kind of problem, all the time.=94<BR></DIV><br /><hr /> <a href=3D'' ta=
rget=3D'_new'></a></body>
</html>=

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