Courtesy of the Taylor Family

Arthur Taylor was an athlete, a scholar and, above all, a staunch advocate for issues he believed were important. 

Taylor died at age 71 after being killed in a car crash while walking along the I-91 near Exit 9 in North Haven. He has left behind a lasting legacy on the city, which has been shaped by his contributions to homelessness activism through U-ACT, the Unhoused Activists Community Team.

“Speaking truth to power [is] the goal of activism,” said U-ACT member Billy Bromage. “Arthur was a … personification of that … He saw what was important, and what was wrong with what was happening.”

Taylor is the second U-ACT member to die in the past year after activist Keith Petrulis died in August.

Taylor was born on Oct. 14, 1952 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The third of five children, he graduated from New Haven’s James Hillhouse High School in 1972. Upon graduation, he attended North Carolina A&T University. He transferred to Shaw University before returning to New Haven to attend South Central Community College, where he joined the basketball team.

Taylor experienced great success playing college basketball, and continued playing sports in his later years. He also enjoyed old-school R&B music, to which he frequently listened and danced. In his obituary, Taylor’s family wrote that he was “blessed with an exceptional memory,” and had a knack for recalling historical events and family happenings.

After living in Georgia and Florida, Taylor returned to New Haven where he became an advocate for fellow seniors experiencing homelessness. Taylor was a founding member of U-ACT, where he pushed for the city to expand affordable housing and increase accessibility for seniors with fixed incomes.

According to Bromage, Arthur played a “key” role in shaping U-ACT’s primary demands, which call on the city to end evictions from public land, stop throwing away the belongings of unhoused New Haveners and install permanent public bathrooms and showers for all.

Taylor regularly attended U‑ACT’s weekly community lunches on the New Haven Green. Additionally, he advocated for increased attention to homelessness at a Board of Alders committee meeting in February 2023. At the meeting, Taylor made suggestions for the alders to use funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to respond to the homelessness crisis.

Bromage said that Taylor had a strong command of public speaking, and often cited well-known activists like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King at U-ACT’s rallies and events. Roosevelt Watkins, a fellow activist who knew Taylor through U-ACT, noted that Taylor was highly articulate.

“The most important thing I would say about him is how he carried himself with dignity, even in the situation that he was in, as far as being homeless,” Watkins said.

On March 4, Taylor moved into the former Days Inn on Foxon Boulevard, which the city converted to a non-congregate shelter. However, he continually questioned why seniors with fixed incomes — like himself — were not given priority on the New Haven Public Housing waiting list.

Watkins noted that at the time of his death, Taylor had obtained a Section 8 housing voucher. However, according to Watkins, Taylor was unable to find a permanent home in the city given the lack of affordable housing in the city.

Bromage said that Taylor frequently had individual conversations with people to discuss injustice surrounding unhoused seniors.

“I think he would frame it as a real moral failing of our society,” Bromage said.

In February, Bromage submitted legislative testimony for Connecticut Senate Bill 145, titled “An Act Appropriating Funds for The Homeless Response System.” In his testimony, Taylor called on the state to secure $20 million for social services to expand housing resources for unhoused people and discussed the ineffectiveness of resource centers in providing seniors with long-term housing.

According to Watkins, the last U-ACT meeting he attended with Taylor was to plan an event for May Day, which will take place on May 1.

“I believe that some people just can’t deal with society and the way it is,” said Pastor Larry Johnson at Taylor’s memorial services on April 12. “Arthur didn’t want to mix with society because society wasn’t right. We’re imperfect people.”

U-ACT was founded in September of 2022.

Natasha Khazzam covers housing and homelessness for city desk. She previously covered climate and the environment. Originally from Great Neck, New York, she is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in history and English.