Members of the homeless advocacy group Respect Line offered a typical soup kitchen meal on the steps of City Hall Monday because a shelter where the meal would normally have been served has been closed since September.
The student-run group served a meal to everyone in attendance and delivered speeches to a crowd of about 100 protesters.
This protest came almost a week after last Wednesday’s march on City Hall, when Respect Line held a press conference and presented New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. with a position paper calling for change in public policy. Speakers at Monday’s rally corroborated the position paper’s stance that the current homeless policy is not cost-effective and needs humanitarian reform.
Daniel Thomas ’06 said the 90-day policy, which limits length of stay in a shelter to 90 days, is a central issue in recent controversy.
“It sets unrealistic expectations on the homeless,” Thomas said.
Jessica Leight ’06 wrote the position paper with the help of other members of Respect Line.
“I was interested in getting involved with the community before I came [to Yale],” Leight said. “[I hope the rally will] gain a lot more visibility and support and cause everyone to see that our community members need a place to sleep inside.”
A resident of West Haven who was once homeless and goes by the nickname Perry said half of the women living in the tent city are pregnant. Perry also noted recent studies showing that many homeless people on the Green have mental illness or drug problems. He said these people could not possibly rehabilitate themselves in 90 days.
“There’s no way to get your life together in 90 days,” Perry said. “How can you get [someone abusing a drug] help in 90 days?”
Perry also talked about the city’s closing of the overflow homeless shelter. He said when the the city closed the shelter in September, about 100 people had to make homes for themselves in what would become known as “tent city.”
Perry said he thinks Yale should contribute to the cause of the New Haven homeless.
Andy, an onlooker who moved into the tent city yesterday, said that of the two issues protested at the rally, he only supports one. He disagrees with the closing of the overflow shelter, but agrees with the city’s 90-day policy.
“Everybody has a right to basic shelter,” Andy said. “I’m in this position because I made bad choices in my life. [The 90-day policy] may give people a motivating factor to get off their asses.”
The protest went smoothly, with police only interfering to clear a walkway for pedestrians.