YHHAP members struggle to keep support centers open

As the school year comes to a close, a group of Yalies and community members are working to ensure that support for the city’s homeless population, in the form of shelters and community centers, continues into the summer.

Harmony Place, a community center founded by members of the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, is still searching for a new location since being asked in February to vacate its current meeting quarters after June 1, Harmony Place coordinator Sarah Marks ’09 said. Currently, Harmony Place uses an upstairs room at Trinity Lutheran Church three times a week, Marks said.

Meanwhile, other members of YHHAP have recently been active in raising funds through an ad-hoc committee, Inside at Night, to keep the Overflow Men’s shelter open after the city stops funding it on April 30. The group currently has three-fourths of the necessary funds to keep the shelter open during the months of May and October, Ward 10 Alderman Edward Mattison said.

Marks said Harmony Place coordinators are meeting with Trinity’s leaders tomorrow to discuss using the church’s facilities on Sundays during the summer months. Though Harmony Place does not have a permanent space to use, she said the organization is thriving through the activity of committed freshmen.

“It’s bad for us to be in the position we are right now, but as a result of what is happening, people are really rallying around Harmony Place,” she said. “People are really committed to Harmony Place, and that should provide some optimism for the future.”

YHHAP co-coordinator Jane Levy ’08 said that although the outlook for the summer is not positive, YHHAP members are currently talking with Fellowship Place, a community-based organization that provides rehabilitation services to adults recovering from mental illness, to possibly coordinate usage of their spaces for the coming year.

“We are currently working with local churches and community groups to find Harmony Place a home,” Levy said. “That’s our main action right now.”

Columbus House Director Alison Cunningham said that although she was not aware of Harmony Place’s current state of homelessness, she understands the difficulty in finding a space to meet. Fellowship Place might become a useful partner because the two communities often overlap, she said.

YHHAP members are also working to make sure that the Overflow Men’s Shelter remains open after April 30, since the city only funds the shelter from November through April. Levy said that through the work of Inside at Night, the shelter will remain open at least through the end of May. But since the group has only raised $40,000, in addition to a $20,000 matching grant from the city, Mattison said, the shelter might close sooner than the expected Memorial Day date in order to conserve funds for the fall. He said the shelter requires $40,000 a month to open its doors, and that deciding when to keep the shelter open requires complicated social calculations when funds are short.

“We might conceivably close a week early … because we know that October is going to be cold and wet,” Mattison said. “We’re running about 80 to 85 guys a night, … [and] it just seems like closing down and saying to those guys, ‘You’re on your own,’ would be a social disaster.”

Dwight Hall Program Director Johnny Scafidi ’01 also said funds for the overflow shelter would be prioritized for the fall months.

Cunningham said Columbus House, which runs the overflow shelter, is waiting for more news from Inside at Night to learn how much funding they will have to keep the overflow shelter open.

Mattison said Inside at Night, along with other community organizations, faces difficulties in finding continuing support for the causes of the homeless.

“We like to think of ourselves as a very compassionate city, and keeping these guys off the streets seems to be a part of that,” he said.

The overflow shelter will be supported entirely by Inside at Night’s funding beginning May 1.

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