Current and former homeless people from New Haven gathered to share their stories at the Bregamos Community Theater on Friday evening.

Housing Not Jails, a group of current and past homeless people, hosted the event, titled “The Untold Stories of New Haven,” which provided a voice to the local homeless community by allowing members to share their platform through various forms of art. As the night progressed, members took the stage to sing, dance, act and share poems, sharing stories of harassment, discrimination and other forms of adversity.

“We’re letting ourselves go free,” said Winston Echols, a member of Housing Not Jails.

Echols added that it had been difficult to make his voice heard as a homeless man. Other members echoed Echols’ gratitude for this opportunity to create and share art.

Posted on the walls of the theaters were an array of pictures taken by Housing Not Jails members. The photos, which were taken on disposable cameras, were meant to capture what life is like as a homeless person in New Haven. Many of the photos and presentations expressed the difficulty homeless people face in trying to find places to stay, especially in the winter.

One photo portrayed six police officers escorting a man into the back of a police car.

“This is a thing that happens a lot,” Juan Carlos, a coordinator for the event, said of the photo.

As the event stretched late into the evening, members of the organization acted out scenes, in which they detailed their experiences as homeless people, from arrests to discrimination and sexual harassment.

The Connecticut Bail Fund, a nonprofit organization that pays bail for defendants who cannot afford it, cooperated with Planned Parenthood to organize the event. Attendees at the event profusely thanked Brett Davidson ’16 and Ana Maria Rivera-Forestieri, co-directors of the Connecticut Bail Fund.

“They’re turning my life around, keeping me out of trouble,” said Echols, who recently signed his first lease on an apartment with the help of the Connecticut Bail Fund.

The Connecticut Bail Fund was founded in 2016.

Aaron Jenkins |