Homeless Take To The Streets

Markeshia Ricks PhotoCold, rain and a last-minute revocation of their ability to march on the street didn’t keep nearly 200 homeless New Haveners and their allies from rallying for more housing and the decriminalization of homelessness.

Chanting, “Housing. Not Jail,” the demonstrators marched through downtown from the intersection of Olive and Chapel streets during the late afternoon Wednesday to draw attention to the critical need for housing in the city. The march was organized by community organizer and homeless advocate Quentin “Q” Staggers and the Connecticut Bail Fund.

“We have to provide housing for all because no one should be sleeping on the street,” Staggers said.

Staggers, who had been homeless for the last six or seven years and just obtained a voucher for an apartment, has been sucker-punched in the gut and had trash thrown at him while sleeping outside in New Haven. He told the crowd Wednesday that he’d seen a lot of injustices happen to other people as well who have nowhere to stay. He cited examples:

• Women sheltering in dangerous situations where they are abused and assaulted because they have nowhere else to go.
• Men crowded into a bedbug-infested shelter with only two caseworkers to help dozens of them at a time.
• People being fined and risking jail for relieving themselves on the Green when they have no public bathroom to use.

“And Ray Roberson’s family still hadn’t been healed to this day,” he said of a homeless man nicknamed “Bobo” who was found murdered and dismembered in the summer of 2015 in a squatter’s lair off Crown Street. “That was risky shelter,” Staggers said. “No more risky shelter.”

Staggers called on Mayor Toni Harp and her administration to pursue the transformation of vacant and abandoned property into housing for the homeless. He suggested allowing homeless men and women with certifications in skills like roofing, plumbing, and electrical work to help make those places habitable. He also urged the administration to build new shelters, especially for women.

“They’re homeless but they have certifications,” he said of 61 people that he has identified with skills to do such work. Staggers said he has identified hundreds of pieces of property around the city that are vacant or abandoned that could be transformed into suitable housing for the city’s homeless. He said he has talked with owners who are willing to allow homeless people to stay on their property if they will help maintain it.

City spokesman Laurence Grotheer said in a phone interview that the Harp administration’s commitment to addressing homelessness is “ongoing and unwavering.” He pointed to the approximately $1 million that is allocated to addressing homelessness and noted that New Haven has dedicated more resources to providing access to services and shelter than any other municipality in the state.

Staggers called on the city to do more, including stopping police officers from harassing and ticketing homeless people on the Green and in city parks after dark when there is no safe place for them to go. He criticized the practice of offering forced community service or putting people in jail when they can’t pay fines, he said.

Police officers escorting Wednesday’s marchers found that they were receiving an extra level of scrutiny. About a dozen florescent lime green cap wearing “legal observers” with the National Lawyers Guild watched police interaction with the marchers and others on the street. March co-organizer Brett Davidson of the Connecticut Bail Fund reminded officers that they were being watched.

Davidson called attention to the fact that just minutes before marchers had been expected to take to the city’s streets, the marchers were informed by Lt. Wayne Bullock that they would be confined to the sidewalk. They were not allowed to march in the street, though their permit indicated it was OK for them to have one car as part of their march.

The marchers soldiered on past people looking out of storefronts and waiting for the bus on Chapel Street, made their way to City Hall and the courthouse on Elm Street and eventually to a community dinner that was held St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale.

Bealton Dumas, who once worked at a homeless shelter and is now homeless, called on the police and the city to solve the problem of homelessness by caring about people and their plight.

“Let New Haven be the first city to be the most caring and the most loving,” he said.

While holding two fingers apart, almost touching he reminded people, “We’re all this close to being homeless.”

Click on the above audio file or the Facebook Live video below to hear the full WNHH FM “Dateline New Haven” interview with homeless organizer Quentin Staggers. The interview begins at the 27-minute mark

 

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posted by: robn on November 2, 2017  8:19am

How do the current homeless numbers relate to the United Way’s not so long ago successful push to house most of NHV’s chronically homeless? If there’s been a recent spike, why? Are they newcomers to town, newly homeless townies, or formerly housed homeless that are back out on the street again? If the march is shouting crisis, the answers to my questions would help citizens understand the issue better. Not having answers makes the idea of trying to help seem futile.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on November 2, 2017  8:23am

Isn’t New Haven pretty much the only city (aside from Hartford) which even attempts to address homelessness? We take the downtrodden from other towns and help them find food and shelter, and then these towns complain that New Haven public school cost too much money and THEY shouldn’t be punished for that.

We need county government asap.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on November 2, 2017  8:34am

The people who shared their stories yesterday know the reality of being without a home better than any bureaucrat sitting in City Hall and filing reports.
    The shelter-industrial complex is demeaning, unhealthy and definitely doesn’t provide a home, but millions go into them.
    All misery seems to make money for someone.
  It’s time to decriminalize all the low level “crimes” associated with people experiencing social and economic disasters
  A proper LEAD program would be doing that, but the City has appointed people rather than establish an independent, community based coalition to organize and run the program.
    The people I saw and heard yesterday are the experts in what’s wrong with our debasing and dehumanizing approach to people in distress.
    Why is there more compassion and love in those who struggle on a daily basis than we find with many who are materially so much better off, but spiritually lacking?

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on November 2, 2017  9:08am

First a real congratulations to Mr. Staggers for a remarkable feat of organization. I have mixed feelings about this, because I have told that services are available to New Haven’s homeless population, but that certain individuals choose not to live within the system

Is this the case? Is there safe shelter readily available for everyone in need? And do the soup kitchens do a sufficient job? Are more revenues needed?

That being said, the New Haven Green is an absolute disgrace. A small subset of the City’s population has essentially taken over the Upper Green, and made it a place where many ordinary New Haveners don’t feel comfortable, due to this, that and the other. (Trash, public drinking, drug abuse, people sleeping on benches.)

If this rally is more a push-back against a City’s sorely effort to clean up the Green, I am not sympathetic. The Green is a shared public park, and one where any New Haven family should feel comfortable bringing their kids for a picnic.

posted by: EPDP on November 2, 2017  9:11am

The annual budget in New Haven is $540 million.  The annual budget in Greenwich is $450 million.  Greenwich is about one third the size of New Haven in population and doesn’t have to contend with the high costs of running a City with a large population of daily commuters, businesses, homelessness, drug gangs, crime and poverty. Mayor Harp should stop wasting her time with Mayor Ganim and spend more time with the First Selectman of Greenwich Peter Tesei.  Tesei should take in the homeless of New Haven.  The Town of Greenwich has plenty of money in its budget to help their fellow human beings who sleep on the streets of New Haven.

posted by: HewNaven on November 2, 2017  10:41am

EPDP is right on the money!

While I applaud sentimental activists who say we shouldn’t turn a blind eye, let’s also be honest about being a MAGNET for people who require social services, while suburbs and RICH cities don’t provide enough. It’s a lopsided setup.

posted by: BHaven on November 2, 2017  11:43am

If the this population is here because of the services they receive from institutions such as Yale. Maybe Yale should do more support rather then creating spaces that are not safe for these folks. While I mention Yale I also realize there are other much smaller resources these folks come for.
    To truly help these folks there needs to be more affordable housing, Less catering to the overinflated yalie wallet, we need to decriminalize all drugs and provide proper support for people who wish to quit.

I think it goes back to 1. Tax Yale more. 2. Don’t pander to mid to large size companies that come for a tax break then leave when it is over. 3. Provide employment and activities for those who have less income.

posted by: Perspective on November 2, 2017  1:18pm

@Betweentworocks- I don’t understand your correlation between NHPS costs and homelessness.  I agree that the homelessness issue should not be solely addressed by services and resources from New Haven as it is a regional issue.  Why the homeless ‘flock’ to the city may be attributed to that’s where some of the services are but poses an interesting question.
As to the educational cost ‘sharing’ issue, the fact that New Haven chose to be a sanctuary city with its inherent higher educational system costs of doing so should not be a shared cost.  This local decision has also contributed to its ‘under performing’ scores.  Also you might want to visit a suburban school and notice how antiquated some of the the schools are compared to New Haven’s.  New Haven chose to use money to upgrade the school when they needed to upgrade the system! A shiny new car doesn’t make you a better driver.

posted by: 1644 on November 2, 2017  1:45pm

Having just paid an electrician $160 for an hour of his time on a Saturday, I must wonder why skilled tradesmen would be homeless.  Does drug addition prevent them from working? If we legalize drugs, will we have more addicts incapable of using skills they have, or will we have functioning addicts who don’t need to resort to crime to support their habits? 
  As for county government, it is ironic that Connecticut eliminated it just as the Turnpike made regional government more logical than ever.  As far as regionalization, New Haveners should be aware that it is a double-edged sword.  Many police forces in large metropolitan areas have far worse relations with minorities than New Haven does, in part because minorities are a minority and lack the political power they have in New Haven.  The “progressive"policies so many New Haveners embrace would be harder to establish in a regional polity.

posted by: Colin Ryan on November 2, 2017  2:11pm

I was not aware that people in New Haven were being arrested for either being homeless or for reasons directly attributed to being homeless.

Homelessness is a tremendously complex issue but I, and I believe the majority of citizens of New Haven, do not want our tax dollars being spent to arrest people for being homeless. That’s a policy change that can be implemented right now today.

posted by: wendy1 on November 2, 2017  2:16pm

Proud to be in this crowd.

The shelters are crowded AND FILTHY especially Grand Ave.  Homeless are able to get free food and clothing if they are able to walk for miles but housing even with vouchers is a pipedream or a very long wait during which you can die of exposure.

Some cops are sympathetic but not O_____ who tells me all public drinkers should be fined and arrested.  I told him I have drunk in public.  I also tell him homeless cant pay the $200 fine.  He and others dont care.  The city will save $$ if they immediately house the homeless without all the hoops and requirements.

Another issue is the local hospitals refuse to take PROPER care of homeless and prefer to just dump them out on the street.  One friendly officer told me every local cop has attempted to leave MC at the hospital multiple times (see my next article).

posted by: Dwightstreeter on November 2, 2017  2:24pm

@1644. I watched skilled tradesmen selling their tools in 2008 and 2009. Yes, some survived long enough to bill you. Others lost their homes, marriages, savings accounts and health. Life is precarious for all but the 1/2 of 1/%.
  As for your clear sarcasm about working and addiction, alcoholism is a lot more prevalent and destructive. What do you drink?
  Regional government is a great idea that is decades past the point where it should have been done, but government jobs pay rather well now compared to what private industry remains, so politically change is frozen for the time being.
  Since language matters, e.g. laws are largely gender-neutral, it’s time to stop referring to ethnic and religious groups as a “minority” or “minorities”.
  Worldwide, people of color are the majority and soon will be in the US. You will be the minority: A white male who grew up when that accorded you many privileges, but are disappearing.
  The Dems depend on votes from the black community, but Obama disappointed a lot of them, so just be aware that the two party monopoly is fading fast. There aren’t enough Tea Partiers (fronts for ultra-conservative dark money) or Libertarians to derail the big changes that will occur when T and his swamp-friends have left everything in tatters and Bernie again appears to confirm that the system is rigged. cue the pitch forks and torches.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on November 2, 2017  3:04pm

@Perspective: The point wasn’t really about education spending, it was more of a general point, that all of the more wealthy towns surrounding New Haven benefit from the municipal services provided by New Haven for people struggling with homelessness or drug addiction, etc., but that they have no interest in helping New Haven pay for those costs.

Look at Hartford: A city besieged with enormous costs, in part because so much of it is non-taxable (like New Haven), and the surrounding suburbs want no part in helping out Hartford, not realizing that they use those very same city services they don’t want to pay for.

posted by: 1644 on November 2, 2017  3:12pm

Dwightstreeter:  I was not sarcastic about the drug addiction.  I am well aware that there are functional drug addicts, including alcoholics.  I know it is not uncommon for building tradespeople to be prescribed pain killers for work-related injuries, and then become addicted, yet continue to work.  The question with any sort of regulation or prohibit is: is the cure worse than the disease?  We decided it was with alcohol but I think the jury is out on other topics, including pot and hard drugs. 
  As for my use of “minority”, it still pretty common to use it, and I did hesitate, but couldn’t immediately think of a better term. In truth, there is no dominant ethnic group in the US and has not been for a long time, perhaps the 19th century when massive Catholic immigration ended the WASP dominance.  Regardless of what term one uses, the socio-economic-political make-up of New Haven is not shared with its suburbs: compare the 86% of New Haven’s who voted for HRC vice about 55% in many suburbs, even against an opponent of dubious mental health.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 3, 2017  8:41am

The only way to help this homeless problem would be to fight to add to the state constitution like the New York State constitution which provides homeless people with a right to shelter. That case, known as Callahan vs. Carey, was settled in 1981 when the city and state entered into a consent decree which established the right to shelter for homeless men. Through additional lawsuits, advocates were able to extend the right to shelter to homeless women and to homeless families with minor children. New York City and State have a legal obligation to provide shelter to homeless New Yorkers.So out of the lawsuit,They had to start a Department of Homeless Services.


http://www.nyc.gov/html/dhs/html/home/home.shtml

Also it city should look into this.

EXCLUSIVE: City to pay New Yorkers who house their homeless relatives in ‘Home for the Holidays’ campaign.

The city is offering to pay friends and family members of homeless shelter residents to take in their less fortunate loved ones for up to a year as part of a new program timed to the holidays.The “Home for the Holidays” program launched this week, and is being offered to 5,000 families who have been living in shelters for at least 90 days
The host family will get a taxpayer-funded $500 gift card for their hospitality, and extra money toward their rent.Depending on the size of the family they take in, the host families will receive $1,200, $1,500 and $1,800 a month for up to a year.It costs a whopping $40,000 a year to shelter one family in the system, which is nearly double what the city would pay for a family getting the maximum stipend for the same time period under the new program.

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/city-pay-new-yorkers-house-homeless-relatives-article-1.2895183

But you can also use the Goffe Street Armory for now in New Haven.

posted by: Inside 165 on November 3, 2017  10:56am

@1644

The reality is they are not certified, ie licensed tradesmen.  Your right it’s hard to believe someone with that tradecraft would be homeless because it’s just not true. It is added to be sensational, deceptive or just plain ignorance. Just because you’ve nailed a shingle in a roof, wired up some plugs or soldered a pipe doesn’t mean your supposed to do or doing it correctly.

The reason people come to New Haven is somewhat two fold. One because we have the homeless shelters, soup kitchens and services. The other reason is because the suburbs and their citizens through their police forces don’t tolerate pan handleing and vagrancy. They actually will either arrest, threaten with arrest or provide literally or financially for these folks to get out of their town and head on down to New Haven, etc.

I certainly think that we should assist people to a certain degree but the taxpayers of New Haven cannot shoulder this burden alone and to ask for that is ridiculous. We are stretched to the hilt with taxes and the inevitable tax increases that are coming do to our Mayors continued spending spree even in the face of well publicized state budget deficits just makes the pain worse.

posted by: J from NYC on November 3, 2017  11:41am

What about the rights of those who live in downtown New Haven? That I have to walk through the streets & encounter people relieving themselves or the times when someone urinated in the entryway of my building and urine seeped into the carpet beyond the door.

What about my right to feel comfortable walking my dog alone through the green or walking my dog alone at 9pm at night (which I do not).

What about how I work all day to pay my rent as much as I wish I didn’t have to.

I’m all about temporary safety nets & think everyone should have one for a limited amount of time to enable us all be able to pay our rent.

I am a liberal person & recently moved from NYC and cannot believe the level of entitlement by the article & comments.

posted by: robn on November 3, 2017  11:51am

J,

Welcome to the communist state of New Haven. Loud mouth ultra-leftist have been screaming demands so loudly and for so long, they’ve drowned out rational liberal expression and marginalized it as right wing.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 3, 2017  4:20pm

posted by: J from NYC on November 3, 2017 12:41pm

posted by: J from NYC on November 3, 2017 12:41pm

What about the rights of those who live in downtown New Haven? That I have to walk through the streets & encounter people relieving themselves or the times when someone urinated in the entryway of my building and urine seeped into the carpet beyond the door.

Then you and others who say they are a liberal   should pick up signs and march on city hall for your right like they are doing for there rights..