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The New Haven Board of Alders has just approved the purchase of a Days Inn to convert into a non-congregate shelter — although the decision was contested.

At the Board’s general bimonthly meeting on Monday night, 27 out of the 30 alders were present, and 20 voted to approve funding to purchase the property. The other seven alders voted against the purchase.

“This type of shelter, this is about helping,” said pro-purchase alder Jeanette Morrison. “This is about preventative care. This is about helping people get on a trajectory of permanent housing, and that’s what we need.”

The building, located at 270 Foxon Boulevard, is currently a Days Inn. With the city’s funding, it will be turned into a shelter for unhoused working families, helping to increase the number of shelters available for larger groups of people. The hotel’s 56 rooms will house over 100 people. 

As a non-congregate shelter, occupants will be designated more personal and permanent living spaces as opposed to congregate shelters, where occupants are required to move around each night.

The funds for the purchase — a total of $6.9 million — will come from various accounts: $1.9 million will come from city funds, and $5 million will come from American Rescue Plan Act funds.

In a city currently undergoing a housing crisis, this shelter will come as a relief. The city’s shelter waitlist is over 60 individuals and 50 families long, and with only around 200 shelter beds currently available, the hotel will provide much-needed housing for families, which are more difficult to house than individuals.

When Board of Alders President Tysha Walker-Myers opened discussion about the new funding allocation, the first alder to speak up in opposition to the plan was Gerald M. Antunes, alder of Ward 12, the ward in which the building is located.

Antunes brought up concerns from his residents, who claim that Foxon Boulevard is dangerous for pedestrians, making it a precarious place for the would-be occupants to live. Though the state has promised to make pedestrian-friendly improvements, Antunes said they will take too long. The need for shelters, by contrast, is pressing. Foxon Boulevard also had relatively high vehicle traffic, with over 100 vehicle accidents recorded annually — a concerning figure for those in opposition.

“I’m not against housing the homeless,” said Antunes. “But in this case, the city’s plan puts the homeless in a dangerous situation. Are we really helping them? Or simply housing them?” 

Morrison, representing Ward 22, stood up after Antunes, urging her colleagues to vote in support of the purchase instead. 

Morrison referred to the difficulty that unhoused residents currently face in having to leave shelters early with all of their possessions and come back late at night. With a non-congregate shelter, they would be able to have more permanence. She mentioned that the city will be employing contractors to run the shelter, making it a safe living environment with more dignity.

“We have a problem in this city,” Morrison said. “We have a problem with the unhoused. And the unhoused, they are a part of the 134,000 citizen population. We are the legislative body. We have a responsibility to do something different. If we do not support them, where are they gonna go?”

Other alders rose in opposition for financial reasons. Ward 10 Alder Anna M. Festa brought up the appraisal value of the property, which is one-third of what the city is paying for it in the proposal, valued at $2.3 million.

To Festa’s financial concerns, Alder Adam J. Marchand from Ward 25 responded by citing the origin of most of the funds being proposed for use. The American Rescue Plan Act funds, which cover part of the purchase, were intended for use in economic and community recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. New Haven’s ARPA funds must be allocated by December 2024.

“The unhoused are part of our community, and they deserve to be supported and included in this program of recovery,” said Marchand. 

At the meeting, apart from approving the purchase, the alders supported the city’s approval and acceptance of grants for the economic and community development of Whalley Avenue and for help with the decarbonization of Fair Haven.

The next general Board of Alders meeting will be held on Oct. 16 at the Aldermanic Chamber in City Hall, which is located at 165 Church St.

Mia Cortés Castro covers City Hall and State Politics, and previously covered Cops and Courts. Originally from Dorado, Puerto Rico, she is a sophomore in Branford College studying English.