A house that feeds and puts a roof over the heads of the poor is sprouting disintegrating shingles—and needs a new roof itself.
The building is the Catholic Worker House on Rosette Street in the Hill. A small religious group accepting a mission of “works of mercy” and voluntary poverty runs it on donations. It’s part of a movement, founded by Dorothy Day, linking Catholic spirituality with performing works of social justice among the poorest
New Haven’s house needs some emergency donations now to keep the emergency help flowing in the Hill.
As Carlos Rodriguez prepared bags of fresh broccoli, plantains, potatoes, and yautias for a weekly food giveaway there, founder Mark Colville said replacing the roof on the 110-year-old house is, if not yet an emergency, then right at the stage before serious leaks.
The third-floor bathroom is also in dire straits. So the entire floor has had to be closed off. If the bathroom is fixed, then five to six more people, often the society’s neediest, could find shelter there. The flimsy shower there collapsed; plans call for room to be reconfigured and a permanent shower installed. Providing such personal care, from food and clothing to bathing, is basic to Amistad’s role in the community.
But that project will cost in the thousands, which Colville said the organization does not have.
The happy-looking green house with “Amistad” shingle, adjacent community garden, and open door to all is an anchor in one of the neediest sections of town. It relies entirely on voluntary donations to survive.
That’s enough to sustain regular operations such as the vegetable distribution and the daily breakfasts of pancakes or eggs that volunteer 80-year-old Herb Turner has been cooking for years.
“Things like major repairs are hard to do,” said Colville, who lives in the house with his family and, depending on need and the conditions inside, a changing cast of five or so people whose woes range from homelessness to substance abuse to family crises.
The group had some reshingling done 20 years ago The under-roof has not been attended to, Colville said.
Then there’s the steep pitch of the roof. “Normally we can get volunteers [for most tasks], but this steep roof requires we get it professionally done,” he said.
Plus there’s another complication. The house has lost its insurance. Colville blamed redlining. So in addition to a contractor willing perhaps to contribute the workers and materials, “we have to find an insurance policy.”
None of this interfered with the weekly food distribution Thursday. Before the assembled bags were given out, a prayer was offered in Spanish and English. Following an Amistad tradition, Maria Barrientos, of Kimberly Avenue, who offered the prayer in Spanish, received the first bag of food.