430 Homeless Took Shelter

Allan Appel PhotoTwo-hundred eight-seven single adults. Forty-two families, which breaks down to 64 adults and 79 children.

All those people slept in beds that didn’t belong to them, either in shelters or in transitional housing, on a single evening this week.

That was the count Wednesday night as the city, along with the entire state, conducted its annual Point in Time Count or census of the homeless among us.

That count included people like Chris Staggers (pictured above) and all others living in shelters or transitional housing programs, such as: the main shelter and overflow shelters run by the not-for-profit agency Columbus House; and other facilities run by Christian Community Action, New Haven Home Recovery, and Life Haven.

The “sheltered count” number does not include those homeless who slept outside. They went uncounted.

Staggers has been living at Columbus House’s shelter on Ella Grasso Boulevard for the past year or so as he tries to get his diabetes under control and find a stable home. Staggers, who has an eye for organizational detail, used to supervise the employee cafeteria at Foxwoods before undiagnosed illness undermined his independence. On Wednesday after dinner he planned to go to the Trinity Baptist Church on State Street for a regular weekly Bible study.

Wednesday’s count was a day like any other for him and the 80 other folks who fill the beds at the shelter. For the administrative staff behind the scenes it was a night of more rigorous statistics than usual.

Each client has a case file, as well as a case manager who meets with him once a week for an hour, said Columbus House Executive Director Alison Cunningham, and so every day information is always available, and accurate. For example, Staggers and the others check in every day by around 4 p.m. Staggers noted that attendants at the door of Columbus House always log him in and out carefully when he goes to bible study, so as not to double-count.

Statistics are important because they help guide policy and supports, Cunningham added Wednesday afternoon as the last contingent of folks looking for shelter filled up the lobby at around 5 p.m.

On Wednesday evening the numbers she sent in to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH), which will tally the statewide figures, would be a little more detailed than usual, she said.

“We run census [figures] every day,” but for the point-in-time count, they add info on demography, employment, and disabilities, Cunningham said.

That will create “a certain snapshot of data so we have the characteristics of the people we serve, so we know what programs we need,” she added.

The count is always done in the last week in January. Every other year, the count also includes sending out volunteers to find and tally those living on the streets, the Green, and in encampments around the city.

Last year the count included a full street census, to the best of the abilities of the volunteer counters. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds many of the homeless support programs, by law requires a census every year, but a full census, including street count, only every other, Cunningham said.

The figures reported, which are statewide totals, will be part of a larger report prepared by the CCEH, will be based on reporting from the approximately 70 facilities state-wide that provide emergency shelter or transitional housing. The report should be available early in the spring.

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posted by: Jones Gore on January 30, 2014  5:32pm

There are more people on the street because the Columbus House only takes referrals. They no longer provide emergency beds at that facility.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on January 30, 2014  6:15pm


I have a question how many of those 70 shelters are in New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford? Lets say 10….We have a 169 towns and city’s in this state. Which means that we have over 100 city’s and towns that do not offer shelter to the homeless. I personally think that people have a better chance of coming out of homelessness if they have a bigger village helping them. Maybe I am wrong. I am sorry but I still think that putting hundreds of people all in the same place fighting for the same resorses have less of a chance. Just my 2 cents.

But thank you to all that do help the homeless.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on January 31, 2014  10:17am

What does our collective wealth mean if people don’t have homes?
The military budget continues to escalate, along with the suffering of those who have lost jobs or have health problems.
We need a Marshall Plan for New Haven and other cities that have taken on the work for others.

posted by: usedtoliveinnewhaven on January 31, 2014  1:53pm

Aww..I know Chris from my childhood and have not seen him since we graduated high school.  So sad to see him in this situation..he was a bright kid and good kid.

posted by: rd13NB on February 5, 2014  5:03pm

Dear cedarhillresident!, Thank you for your 2 cents. On the contrary, you’re absolutely right. CT towns that don’t serve their homeless population should step up and join the village of cities and towns that do serve their residents.

Frankly, I believe the towns (without shelters) don’t step up because they’re either blind to the problem of homelessness or they figure the homeless will go to the large urban cities.