Nick Tabio

Last Thursday, Liberty Community Services — a New Haven charity committed to ending homelessness in the greater New Haven area — hosted its 11th annual Project Style fundraising event at the New Haven Lawn Club. The event, which featured the clothes of New Haven-based fashion designer Neville Wisdom, raised over $30,000 and drew over 200 attendees.

In an interview with the News, Liberty Community Services Executive Director Jim Pettinelli described the event as a “fun time, but for a good cause.” He emphasized that it is important to focus on the positive strides that Connecticut has made to combat homelessness.

“Since 2007, we have seen a decrease of 25 percent in homelessness in Connecticut,” Pettinelli said. “That’s not to say that we don’t have a whole lot of work to do, but I think it’s really important to recognize the amazing work that people are doing collectively.”

The event featured a silent auction, which was held for the first two hours of the three-hour event. The benefit was sponsored by various local groups and institutions including the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the Connecticut Mental Health Center, Yale University and the Yale New Haven Hospital. The first Project Style event, which is one of Liberty Community Services’ top fundraising events, was held in 2009. This year, the benefit’s fashion runway began at 7:30 p.m., and lasted for roughly one hour.

“[Project Style] is about raising some funds for the organization, it’s about affirming a united commitment to homelessness and responding correctly and it’s just affirming our community response,” Pettinelli said.

Wisdom headlined the fashion portion of the benefit, which also featured guest designers Andrea Williams — a New England jewelry designer — and Dwayne Moore, a design apprentice with Wisdom. Wisdom first partnered with Liberty Community Services in 2010, when he was featured as a guest designer. In an interview with the News, he said this year would be his last.

Wisdom — who has spent each of the last 92 days designing a new product— said that he has recently been designing with self-expression, and noted that he is not inspired by any particular artist or fashion theme.

“[My work has been] more an expression of myself, more so lately,” Wisdom said. “I’ve been pushing the limits, and not working to make products that I know will necessarily sell.”

Liberty Community Services was founded in 1987, originally operating under the name Connecticut Aids Residence Program. Its original mission was to provide housing options for those suffering with HIV and AIDS. According to Pettinelli, who has served as the Liberty Community Services Executive Director since 2017, the Connecticut Aids Residence Program was the first HIV/AIDS residential program in Connecticut.

In the mid-1990s, the program expanded and began to provide resources — primarily residential options —  for people suffering from mental health issues, chronic disorders and homelessness. According to Pettinelli, the organization currently assists over 1,000 people annually.

Continuums for Care — a program within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — estimated that 3,976 people suffer from homelessness on any given day as of January 2018.

Nick Tabio | nick.tabio@yale.edu