As Yale students and New Haven community members deeply involved in hunger and homelessness issues, we believe that Katie Harrison ’11 is the Ward 1 aldermanic candidate who is both most knowledgeable and best suited to advocate for and create real change in these areas.
Homelessness affects a diverse number of New Haven residents, from elementary school students to working parents to Yale graduates. In addition to the usual obstacles of daily life, they face challenges that many Yale students might not think of, such as transportation and dental health. Especially in New Haven, homelessness is a complex, multi-faceted problem. Our city government must be a regional and state leader in fighting homelessness — intelligently, creatively and immediately.
Last year, the state of Connecticut reported that 33,000 men, women and children were homelessness, signaling a 20 percent increase in statewide homelessness over the past two years. Seven hundred of these people live in New Haven, but according to Columbus House, there are only three hundred beds in the city to accommodate them.
We have committed our time and energy to Dwight Hall student groups like the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project and National Student Partnerships. With the advice and collaboration of longtime New Haven residents, advocates and non-profits, these groups have worked to support emergency shelter all year round. But they have also correctly championed permanent supportive housing as a long-term solution to homelessness. Katie has worked alongside us in these endeavors.
Shelter Now, a YHHAP Project that raised over $35,000 to reopen the Cedar Street Overflow Shelter this past winter, has joined the Yale College Democrats in promoting supportive housing. In particular, Shelter Now supports legislation to reinstate the funding that Governor Rell refused to spend on shovel-ready supportive housing projects. This bill would provide not just homes, but also jobs.
As the recession pushes those just making ends meet into deeper poverty, New Haven must respond with solutions geared at employment in addition to housing. We need to assist our homeless and low-income neighbors in combating this recession. That means increasing access to education and vocational training, abolishing prejudice against the formerly imprisoned and creating new job opportunities to make up for the ones that have disappeared.
In addition to supporting the work of Yale initiatives like Shelter Now, Katie has insisted that responsible economic development, by bringing jobs and tax revenue for social services to New Haven, will also be necessary to fight homelessness. Katie sets an example not just by pledging her support, but also by putting her ideas for development on the table.
We are thrilled and moved to see that all three aldermanic candidates have demonstrated an awareness of homelessness in this campaign, especially through their participation in Shelter Now. But because of her experience with homelessness issues through NSP and her focus on broad city issues, we believe Katie is the Ward 1 aldermanic candidate who will fight homelessness most effectively. She will work with well-informed and active Yale students, as well as New Haven leaders and residents, to continue her education on these complex issues. She understands that this is a fight on multiple fronts, such as prison re-entry, health care, housing, education and economic development. She has voiced her support for a much-needed regional solution. Most importantly, she will use her unique position to see the big picture and think creatively. As concerned citizens will demonstrate at Saturday’s rally to end homelessness on the New Haven Green, we need people like her on the Board of Aldermen to take action.
Eliza Schafler is a senior in Ezra Stiles College and a former co-coordinator of the Yale Hunger and Homeless Action Project and Shelter Now. Efan Wu is a junior in Silliman College and a current co-coordinator of YHHAP and former local director of National Student Partnerships. This endorsement is personal and does not represent the views of YHHAP, Shelter Now or the National Student Partnerships.