The local men’s homeless shelter, Emergency Shelter Management Services Inc., is looking to relocate, but its plans met resistance from the public at last week’s Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.
The meeting heard arguments for and against the organization’s application to relocate from Grand Avenue to East Street. The shelter’s current location at 645 Grand Ave. overlaps with the New Haven Housing Authority’s ongoing rehabilitation project at the nearby Farnam Courts public housing development, city spokesman Laurence Grotheer said. ESMS owners and staff members are looking to relocate so the Housing Authority can go through with its plans, which require that the shelter relocate so its current building can be torn down.
“The city is eager for these shelter services to continue uninterrupted,” Grotheer said.
Grotheer added that the board will reconsider the decision in a hearing next month due to incomplete applications and paperwork from ESMS. According to the Board of Zoning Appeals’ meeting agenda, the subsequent hearing will take place on March 14.
Brian Bellamy DIV ’05, who has been involved with the homeless shelter for two years, said most of the city’s recommendations for new locations were not feasible, and that the East Street location was the only financially and spatially viable option. However, even this location has been a point of contention, he said.
According to Grotheer, it is common for the Board of Zoning Appeals to ask for additional information and carry hearings over to another meeting. He added that in his opinion, the new site would allow the shelter to provide comparable services while operating more efficiently.
Deputy Director of Zoning Tom Talbot, who oversaw last week’s meeting, declined to comment while the hearings are still being processed.
Bellamy said a letter read at the meeting by Ward 8 Alder Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18 opposed ESMS’ application for relocation. In addition, Bellamy said East Street’s location in a flood zone also caused disagreement at the hearing. He noted that a plumber present at Tuesday’s hearing said the building was too dangerous to be occupied by people. However, a flood has not occurred in the area for 100 years, Bellamy said, and the shelter would have flood insurance even if there were one.
Bellamy added that if the city government spends too much time on zoning logistics, it will eventually be impossible to keep the shelter running. The homeless shelter serves a total of 60 to 85 homeless men each night, he said, and the issue extends beyond a simple relocation.
“I was simply told that the shelter was in peril,” he said. “Just out of human interests, the city needs to make this a priority in doing what they can to procure a space. If the issues are legitimate, the city needs to step up.”
ESMS, previously known as Immanuel Baptist Shelter, was established in 1989.