Univ. donates to Shelter Now

In what has been described by all parties as a surprisingly generous move, Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs has given $10,000 to Shelter Now, a student-run organization hoping to keep open a homeless shelter that serves hundreds of people during New Haven’s coldest months.

Yale’s donation — made in mid-October but not made public until this week — is certainly not the University’s first contribution to social causes, although few donations have been as large as this, said Michael Morand, associate vice president for New Haven and state affairs. The donation moves Yale’s chapter of Shelter Now halfway toward its goal of raising $20,000 in association with dozens of Yale undergraduate organizations.

But the gift will not be an annual occurrence, Morand and students involved with the project said. The hope is that the homeless shelter will be fully operational next year and will not need such a large inflow of cash.

Yale’s Shelter Now chapter is part of a broader movement of universities across Connecticut — including Quinnipiac University and Southern Connecticut State University — trying to raise a total of $100,000 for New Haven’s overflow homeless shelter. United Way is working with the student groups raising the money and is also keeping the nearly $30,000 raised so far in an account for the overflow shelter.

Due to budget cuts in city funding, the city’s overflow homeless shelter is slated to close mid-February, which would leave about 125 of New Haven’s homeless people left to fend for themselves in sub-freezing temperatures.

Eliza Schafler ’10, co-director of Yale’s chapter Shelter Now, said she and fellow co-director Beth Reisfeld ’09 approached University administrators hoping for monetary assistance but were unsure how the officials would react.

“We didn’t ask them for money,” Schafler said. “We talked about the issue and our efforts. We thought maybe Yale would give us money, but we weren’t sure.”

A day after their meeting with Morand and Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs and Campus Development Bruce Alexander, the Office of New Haven and State Affairs donated $10,000 to the United Way’s Shelter Now fund.

The University has consistently given around $1,000 per year to help fight homelessness in New Haven, Morand said.

Although leaders of Yale’s Shelter Now chapter said they are pleased with Yale’s donation, they are still focused on raising at least $7,000 more in addition to the $2,135 already raised to reach the $20,000 goal.

“Our message now is Yale raised this [much money],” said Schafler. “Let’s raise this much more.”

In addition to a fundraising a cappella concert held on Sunday, all the money from this year’s Yale Hunger and Homeless Action Project fast later this month and individual fundraising efforts by other undergraduate groups will contribute to the Shelter Now campaign. At this point, Reisfeld said, the student groups are trying to outdo the University’s generosity.

In spite of predictions that the overflow shelter will continue to be without funding come next year, none of those interviewed said they believe the Shelter Now campaign will continue beyond 2008.

“We hope that Shelter Now is a one-time effort, because we are not alone in considering this situation non-sustainable,” Schafler said. She added that she hopes to work with the city to bring about long-term changes in the shelter’s sources of funding to avoid the funding issue next year.

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