Out of funds, shelter closes

Out of money and out of time, the Cedar Street overflow shelter, which provides homeless men with a place to sleep and food to eat during the winter months, closed Monday, leaving about 75 homeless men with nowhere to go.

The center’s closing comes two years after the city cut funding for the shelter by two-thirds, said Alison Cunningham, executive director of Columbus House, the New Haven-based non-profit that runs the overflow shelter. Cunningham said now the city must reexamine how it cares for the homeless.

“When you have a crisis like this, which I think this is, I think it’s a good time to take stock of what the shelter services are and how much money is available,” Cunningham said.

In response, community groups and leaders, including the student-run Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, a Dwight Hall organization, are trying to encourage the city to implement more sustainable ways of funding homeless shelters during the winter, YHHAP Director Gabriel Zucker ’12 said.

Ed Mattison LAW ’68, a principal at Inside at Night, an organization has helped raise money for the Cedar Street overflow shelter, said the solutions that have been suggested to the city include operating a year-round homeless shelter only in the wintertime and finding an organization that will would shelter all of the city’s homeless.

For the past two years YHHAP has held a series of fundraisers called Shelter Now Week at Yale, with proceeds benefiting the overflow shelter, Zucker said. The city’s Community Services Administration has also run a fundraiser for the overflow shelter called Tent City for the past two years.

Although Cunningham said there was not enough money from the city to run the shelter this year and last year and that the shelter was lucky to have raised the money it did, City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the city provided funding for the overflow shelter to remain open from the fall to early April.

“We continue to look for ways to provide the resources necessary to meet the needs of the homeless,” Mayorga said.

Mattison said the city needs to find a way to solve their problem before the next winter, or else “terrible things would happen.” Without an overflow shelter the homeless would end up retreating to warm public spaces such as Union Station or hospital waiting rooms, he said.

“In the long run we should be working toward a system that actually assists people to get out of homelessness and not just continuing a crisis emergency response to these problems,” Mattison said.

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