The Men’s Overflow Homeless Shelter will be opening two months early thanks in large part to a $68,000 donation by a local attorney and another $40,000 challenge grant from the city. The shelter, located on 232 Cedar St., is normally only open between November 1 and April 30, but by raising an extra $100,000, the shelter is already up and running.
Joanne Faulkner, a New Haven consumer lawyer, donated the money from unclaimed refunds in two class action lawsuits against finance companies that overcharged low-income customers for loans.
The Overflow Shelter is one of three men’s homeless shelters in New Haven. The other two are the Immanuel Baptist shelter and the Columbus House. While the city regularly pays for the months of November through April, $135,000 has been raised throughout this year to keep the shelter open in May, June, September and October.
The city spends $1.5 million of local tax money on homeless services, more than all the cities in Connecticut combined, Ward 10 Alderman Ed Mattison said.
Alisson Cunningham, director of both the Columbus House and the Overflow Shelter, said the re-opening of the shelter will relieve the overcrowding at the Columbus House.
“We’ve been at capacity at Columbus house all summer,” Cunningham said. “We’ve actually had to turn people away.”
Although the donations will help keep the Overflow open for a longer time, Cunningham said that the number of homeless people in New Haven is growing every year. The shelter is designed to house 75, but last winter Cunningham said more than 100 people had to be housed.
“We are dealing with a lot more people than we have in the past,” Cunningham said. “We’re doing our best to keep up, but it’s exceeding what any of us can do in New Haven.”
Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project co-coordinator Magni Hamso ’05 said that there are more than 3,000 homeless in New Haven.
“There is still so much that needs to be done in terms of finding housing and also in terms of providing emergency services and case workers,” she said.
Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. said there needs to be a move towards more permanent housing and raising employment.
“At the end of the day, all of us that have an interest in serving and working with this population need to think about ways to help move them to greater degrees of self-sufficiency,” he said.
Mattison said the city needs permanent supported housing, where the homeless have a place to live and the services they need. If they receive help for mental and substance abuse problems, it will be a more permanent solution, he said. New Haven has over 150 supported housing units now, but Mattison said there is a new campaign to build 10,000 units in the state within the next five years.
While the community was able to open the Overflow for an extra four months, Mattison said he regrets that the city could not provide funding for July and August.
“No matter how agreeable the weather is, no one wants to have to sleep outdoors,” Mattison said.