With temperatures dropping into the single digits this month, local non-profits and City Hall are launching new programs to help the homeless find shelter.
Meanwhile, while City Hall announced an “Extreme Cold Shelter Plan” last week that establishes a protocol during dangerously cold weather. The new plan calls on police to proactively work to get people off the streets and into shelters whenever the city issues extreme cold weather warnings. During the day, the homeless can take shelter at six designated “warming centers” in public buildings since many homeless shelters are only open at night.
“The city’s response plan is always a work-in-progress because conditions change and demands change,” said Laurence Grotheer, director of communications for Mayor Toni Harp. “I wouldn’t say that this is a firm model for the indefinite future. I think it’s always subject to modification as the city’s needs vary.”
New Haven already provides homeless shelters and services as part of its core operations, Grotheer added. The new protocol lays out different strategies for bringing homeless men, women, families and youth into designated shelters.
Specifically, the plans ensures that on nights with especially inclement weather, there are more police officers searching at night for vagrants without a place to stay. Police officers encourage them to seek a shelter or call 211, a statewide phone service that directs the homeless to the appropriate shelter in New Haven. Leanne Brewer, shelter manager of Life Haven, said most people who come to the door of the shelter at night are directed there by the police.
As another part of the city’s protocol, both campuses of Yale—New Haven Hospital will accept homeless people who require medical attention, Grotheer said.
Grotheer added that the efforts of nonprofit organizations that have been combatting homelessness, particularly chronic homelessness, are essential in helping address the problem.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandated last spring that Continuums of Care — regional planning bodies that coordinate housing for the homeless — create a Coordinated Access Network, which creates one centralized “front door” to access community resources. A collaboration of private community organizations has designed CAN during the past year, and it is expected to take effect in two weeks.
New Reach, a nonprofit organization with a small budget that provides shelter for around 150 mothers in New Haven, has been collaborating with partner organizations Christian Community Action, Columbus House and Emergency Shelter Management Services to create a comprehensive network of communication. Day called the program a “positive systemic approach to homelessness in the city,” though she added that she “expects bumps in the road.”
She added that working with the city’s department of community services in this endeavor had been essential to the initiative’s success. She said that New Reach currently receives 20 percent of its funding from the city government.
“You have to work together with the city to make things happen,” said Day.
John Bradley, the executive director of Liberty Community Services, which provides shelter for the homeless with mental illnesses and AIDS, said the network makes it easier for the homeless to find long-term housing.
City Hall’s plan is the result of collaboration between Harp, the New Haven and Yale Police departments, New Haven Community Services and Yale—New Haven Hospital.
Warming centers open during the day include Union Station and the New Haven Public Library.