Homelessness in New Haven: Optimistic for the future

By Nora Scally

The city of New Haven, Connecticut is home to a world-class university and one of the top medical research hospitals in the United States. Yet, amid the center of academic excellence, homelessness for hundreds of city residents continues to baffle even the brightest academic and political minds there.

The city’s intractable problem with homelessness emerges in the math. A recent count put the number put the number of homeless at 529 people , 97 children, experiencing homelessness in New Haven. The problem persists despite decreases from its high of 625 people since 2016.

New Haven will look to two success stories toward ending homelessness. One is the elimination of homelessness among military veterans, which was a goal of the state’s outgoing governor Dannel Malloy.

Above: New Haven City Hall

Above: New Haven City Hall

Aggressive programs found homes for 766 veterans listed as homeless in 2016.

New Haven is looking at its own successful programs, which led to the decline in homelessness over the past two years, according to a state official who heads the effort to end homelessness.

“It’s probably a result of the work coming from statewide leadership,” said Robert Pulster, the Connecticut director for the United States Interagency on Homelessness, “New Haven being a community that kind of adopts and really takes advantage of that process and moves forward.”

Pulster works for the state providing materials and information on how to prevent homelessness and help with the rapid rehousing process. The state helps with creating and administering programs and finances to help within different cities all over Connecticut.

Laurence Grotheer, the director of communications for the city of New Haven, agreed with  this. Grotheer said, “ The city is working with its partners, both at the state level and its network of private sector providers to address the root causes of homelessness.”

Above: New Haven city sign.

Above: New Haven city sign.

State government provides funds to towns and cities such as New Haven to help. Emergency Solution Grant  (ESG)  is one such program that places people in homes who have recently become homeless.

Allison Champlin, Manager of Community Development Programs in New Haven, administers these grants within the city. She said that the city has found great success with this. She said,

“The City provides funding to agencies that provide services to those who are low income and/or in jeopardy of becoming homeless. Last fiscal year, we funded services such as prevention, rapid re-housing, and shelter, said Champlin, “Prevention services is used to ensure that individuals or families don’t become homeless. This can be through security deposits, rental assistance, utility assistance, moving costs, etc.”

Homelessness is an issue that touches all New Haven government departments, even the police department is involved with the problem.

David Hartman, a police officer who serves as the department spokesperson, said he and colleagues participate in forums seeking to address the issue.

“The NHPD is not directly involved in advocacy, social work or programs to mitigate homelessness,” said Hartman, “ We do, however participate in forums that do and are participants in community solution processes administered by such advocates and program coordinators.”

Above: New Haven police car.

Above: New Haven police car.

One of the major services within the city of New Haven are shelters. The Columbus House in New Haven shelters the homeless in New Haven, offering 81 beds every night. The Columbus House relies heavily on volunteers to help prepare and cook meals for the people who come through their doors.

The Columbus House works along with the city to help with prevention and rapid re-housing. “We have a very good collaborative relationship with the City of New Haven,” said Hebe Kudisch, Chief Program Office of the Columbus House, “We work in different initiatives sharing the same goal of ending homelessness. Lead, HOPWA, ESG, Overflow are some of the many programs that we are working in collaboration.”  

New Haven cares about the homeless within their city and created the Homeless Advisory Commission to help coordinate all of their efforts in re-housing and prevention. Last year alone, the city provided over one million dollars for this council.

Velma George, the Coordinator for Homelessness in New Haven, said, ““The goal of this office is to improve the quality assurance and evaluation process for emergency shelter providers and other organizations with a core mission to support the elimination of homelessness in New Haven, and to go beyond sheltering / housing, to supporting self-sufficiency in individuals, families and youth,” said Velma George, the Coordinator for Homelessness in New Haven, “ The City General Fund allocated 1.4 million dollars exclusively for homeless shelter services and support services. “

George went on to say, “The City of New Haven provides a safety net of supports and services for the City’s most fragile or vulnerable citizens - homeless singles, families and youth.”

Above: a New Haven Soup Kitchen van.

Above: a New Haven Soup Kitchen van.

Every year, the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness issues a Point-in-Time in cities to count the homeless population. The count takes place every January and is always looking for volunteers. If you would like to volunteer, please sign up here.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Columbus House please look at their volunteer page on their website. They also offer internship experiences for students. If you are interested in an internship with the Columbus house, please email info@columbushouse.org .

The city of New Haven looks ahead and hopes that through all of their programs and efforts, that they may continue to re-house and that they will continue to see a positive decrease in the homeless population.