Yale Daily News

As Dwight Hall continues to operate remotely in compliance with University COVID-19 policies, the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project must find new ways to connect with its clients. 

Founded in 1974, YHHAP strives to remedy issues of food insecurity and homelessness in New Haven. It contains 11 projects, each of which has a unique focus and mission. Volunteers can typically be found creating and distributing meals at a local soup kitchen or working side-by-side with individuals currently experiencing homelessness. But with Dwight Hall operating fully remotely due to University COVID-19 policies, YHHAP has been forced to amend its plans for this semester — a change that YHHAP co-director Monika Krasniqi ’23 felt caused YHHAP to “lose out on a lot.”

“There’s just so much that we miss out on when we miss out on in-person service,” Krasniqi said.

Krasniqi expressed concern about the continuation of remote operation, worrying that it will be more difficult to connect with clients. 

While some projects can be switched online, the same cannot be said for clients, many of whom lack internet access and sometimes literacy, she added.

“The people that we want to serve the most are often the ones who fall through the cracks when we eliminate in-person services,” Krasniqi said.

Since YHHAP has operated remotely since the onset of the pandemic, many new members, and even leaders, have never experienced in-person service. 

Current co-director Luis Guevara-Flores ’24 has been a board member for two years but has mainly done YHHAP service remotely. 

“I think the biggest challenge [to returning to full in-person operations] would be trying to figure out how to repeat the old way of doing things before the pandemic,” Guevara-Flores said.

Guevara-Flores said he hopes that in the meantime, he and Krasniqi will be able to reinvigorate a sense of community back into YHHAP. 

For YHHAP projects like the Yale Community Kitchen, remote operation means a complete shift in service. Instead of serving food to community members, the community kitchen will offer to-go meals. Volunteers will prepare pre-made meals and help distribute them to those in need. 

Nevertheless, project heads Sheikh Nahiyan ’24 and Cheryl Chen ’24 hope to expand services in the spring semester. They plan to reintroduce the Comprehensive Care Initiative and fundraise money to provide sanitary products and COVID-19 protective equipment. Sheikh hopes to also expand the community kitchen’s collaborations with other campus groups and local organizations. 

Chen said she hopes that Dwight Hall will eventually move back to in-person service, echoing Krasniqi’s sentiment.

“I think Yale has a responsibility to New Haven … and to make sure that organizations that directly serve New Haven needs are still running,” Chen said.

YHHAP has over 300 active volunteers.

Clarification, Feb. 10: This article has been updated to clarify that Dwight Hall’s switch to remote operations was a result of Yale’s COVID-19 policy.