YHHAP campaigns against welfare cuts

For two hours in front of Dwight Hall Friday, members of the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project asked students crossing Old Campus to come and participate in its combined letter-signing event and phonathon.

Organizers asked students to sign form letters and make calls to 21 important state legislators to discourage potential welfare cuts from the state budget. They also encouraged students to send similar signed letters to Governor John Rowland.

The Connecticut General Assembly will meet Tuesday in a special session to decide upon cuts from the state budget.

YHHAP coordinators said they were forced to ask students to address their envelopes as well, making it less likely that the legislators would throw the mail out due to recent fears of anthrax contamination.

Beth Rubenstein ’03, a YHHAP co-coordinator, said Friday’s event was aimed at preventing possible welfare cuts of five percent or more in the Connecticut General Assembly on Tuesday.

“It would be negative on several levels,” Rubenstein said.

Rowland has proposed cutting $87.8 million in regular budget spending and holding back $57.3 million in state surplus expenditures. Some programs that face cuts are in the Department of Social Services, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Department of Public Health.

The other co-coordinator, Lindsay Stradley ’03, said the organizers had two goals.

“First, we want to try and make an impact on the legislature’s decision next week on the budget,” Stradley said, adding that the second goal was to make Yale students divert some of their political focus to the state issues at hand.

“Nobody really knows these [proposals] are going on,” Stradley said. “[The event] makes them somewhat less apathetic.”

She added that the problems of the homeless might be more ignored now, particularly given the state’s rapidly deteriorating economy.

Stradley said state Senator Toni Harp suggested Friday’s phonathon event when she visited campus earlier this fall.

Mark Rivara ’04, who coordinates Harmony Place, YHHAP’s homeless community center, spoke to several state legislative aides during Friday’s event.

“Clearly it’s a big concern in New Haven,” said Rivara, who has been involved in a number of programs through Dwight Hall. “Homelessness is always a large presence here.”

Each semester, YHHAP holds several activities to promote student awareness, including a “fast” Tuesday that will allow Yale students to donate the money from their dining hall meals to local and international hunger groups.

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