On April 20, the American Red Cross will recognize Gregory “Duff” Morton ’00 for his contribution to the homeless community of New Haven with a good Samaritan award.
The award celebrates Morton, who is the New Haven program coordinator for Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership, a non-profit social service organization for economically disadvantaged children, for making an exemplary contribution to the homeless in New Haven.
Kathy Morrell, director of financial development for the south central Connecticut chapter of the Red Cross, said a recipient of this award must “perform an act of heroism or do something courageous or unselfish and exemplify dedication to the community.”
People who have worked with Morton said his description fits the bill.
“He knows probably every homeless person in New Haven and probably every service provider,” said Susan Tuddenham ’02, founder of Touchbase, an outreach team which connects homeless residents with community resources. “He wrote the body of our handbook, listing all the homeless resources in New Haven.”
Morton said he was “surprised” to hear he was chosen, saying the honor also belongs to the community of volunteers and homeless people he works with.
“The award goes to a community of people,” Morton said. “If the award recognizes anything, it is the relationship of respect in the homeless community. When I say homeless community, it is not just the homeless community itself that I am speaking about — it is the community built around it, as well. The people in this community are tolerant and accepting, and I think this award recognizes this acceptance and tolerance.”
But many of the people who have worked with Morton were not so surprised that he won the award, pointing to both his hands-on experience and the strong theoretical background for his achievements.
“He is aware of class issues and political and social considerations that arise from them yet he does not see people as a class,” said Judith Miller ’03, secretary for the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project. “He sees people as individual people, not a representation of a broad idea.”
Morton is a founder of Harmony Place, a community center for Yale students and New Haven’s homeless residents. He was also an advisor in the creation of Touchbase and a founder of Respectline, a political action group which works to give homeless people a voice.
But working with formal organizations is only a part of his commitment to homelessness.
“My work with the homeless did not come through involvement in organizations,” Morton said. “I gained a certain position in the homeless community, and my work with the organizations came from that.”
Morton, who was nominated in the broadest category, Adult Good Samaritan, was selected out of 300,000 nominees by a panel of six representatives from corporate sponsors, including Citizens Bank, Anthem Blue Cross, Yale-New Haven Hospital, and SNET, the local telephone company.
Morrell said the decision was “difficult,” but that Morton is “definitely deserving.”
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