In his 60 years of life, Henry (whose name is changed for privacy) never learned how to use a web browser. For a while, he figured he would never have to; Henry spent 22 years as an operator at a New England telephone company before it folded. By the time we met, he had been unemployed for nearly two years and was increasingly nervous about making ends meet. Last December, I worked with Henry at No Closed Doors, a free job application service run by Yale students. In just two hours, we wrote a handful of cover letters and applied to several positions in the city.
At one point, Henry was describing his work experience for another cover letter when he paused and grabbed my shoulder. I stopped typing and saw Henry staring intently at the screen. “It would have taken me hours to write that,” he murmured. “I’d be out on the street before I even finished.”
These days, virtually every job application is online. For Henry and many others who come to No Closed Doors, technological know-how is one of many barriers to a stable way of life. From a recent disability to a new child care expense, any number of factors can make a person vulnerable to homelessness and food insecurity. Approximately 4,000 individuals in New Haven are either homeless or at risk of becoming so — an uptick from last year. Knowing where to click — to search for a job opening or format a resume — can be the difference between finding a job and failing to pay the rent.
But a few clicks are practically nothing to the average Yale student. They amount to a Google search or maybe a line of code. If you walk in to Bass later today, you will probably see dozens of people hashing away at term papers and many more clicking through the rabbit holes of the internet.
Today, I write to ask you for just four clicks. That’s exactly how many it takes for you to donate one day’s worth of meal swipes to the YHHAP Fast on April 26. Twice a year, the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project runs the Fast to support New Haven organizations combating food insecurity and homelessness. Last semester, over 1,300 of you generously donated your Friday meal swipes. Together, you raised well over $10,000.
It’s hard to understate how easy it is to sign up: Once you login to your SIS portal, click “Dining,” click “YHHAP,” “Yes” and then “Submit.” Four clicks.
In past years, Fast donations have gone to support a number of local organizations providing valuable services to the city’s most vulnerable residents. Last year, your meal swipes provided free warm breakfasts at Sunrise Café, frequented by those who leave their shelters in the morning. In another instance, your donations went to supporting New Reach, which provides emergency shelter and affordable housing for women and families experiencing homelessness. You’ve supported countless other local organizations through your contributions, and we hope you will consider continuing the tradition before April 26.
To encourage more students to participate, YHHAP has again partnered with several local restaurants to offer discounts on Friday for participating students. Between new restaurants like Sherkaan and downtown mainstays like Claire’s Corner Copia, many New Haven restaurants will be participating in the Fast by donating a share of their profits to our fundraiser. Moreover, Cross Campus will have abundant free food options for students as Yale Mind Matters hosts their annual Mental Health Day on Friday afternoon. Plus, YCC Events will host a Spring Fling kickoff party with free dinner at Mory’s.
Your donations come at a critical time for New Haven. As the number of vulnerable individuals and families increases, so do the demands placed on local service organizations that feed, shelter and support city residents experiencing homelessness and food insecurity. These organizations provide a valuable safety net for everyone, from the chronically homeless to the temporarily unsettled.
Equally important, your donations support New Haveners on the cusp of slipping through the cracks — real people, like Henry. We hope you take a few seconds to make those four clicks and ensure a reliable safety net for all our neighbors.
Nishanth Krishnan is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College. Suzanne Brown is a first year in Silliman College. Limei Vera is a first year in Silliman College. They are the co-director, communications chair, and the community chair of the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, respectively. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org .