Waiting lists, shelters, programs, food banks, as well as applications for jobs, apartments and grants are still not enough to help those in desperate need. Thousands across Connecticut, as well as in New Haven, are currently homeless.
Students lined the residential quad, making houses out of cardboard and tape to sleep in overnight on April 9. Though these are college students and not the homeless, raising awareness about homelessness was at the forefront of these students’ minds.
The residential quad is located between Farnham Hall, Wilkinson Hall, Chase Hall and the Police Station. The lights along the sidewalk and from the residential halls were enough to light the quad as students made houses. Others played volleyball, some were laughing and chatting with their friends, some students sat on rocks to read a book and some students stopped to watch what was going on in the quad.
According to Sarah Petela, a project coordinator at The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, guests spoke at Southern on behalf of the Habitat for Humanity club and the Service Team’s program, “Sleep Out for Homeless”—A program that was set out to raise awareness on Southern’s campus about homelessness both within the New Haven community, the state of Connecticut, and the United States.
“New Haven is one of the leading communities dealing with homelessness,” Petela said adding how because of the “lack of Federal and other grants, the programs can’t provide enough recourse for people in need.”
Petela gave an example of an “Emergency Security Deposit,” which the government gives a person in need money for their apartment or house.
“There is limited money for programs like this,” Petela said, who also majored in social work.
“We won’t get as many people this year as last year,” Stefan Keller, 21-year-old social work major, said. “Last year this program was part of homecoming and all the Greeks helped.”
Petela also said that New Haven, while being one of the most expensive places to live also has the highest “disparity rate.”
“New Haven has a good housing authority and is good with merging with other programs,” she said.
Some programs Petela mentioned include Section 8 and Shelter plus Care. These programs are aimed at getting people out of shelters and into homes. However, the downfall for a majority of these programs is that a person has to have a minimum income per month, according to Petela.
One fact that Petela kept stressing is that a lot of homeless people are part of a category called “chronic homeless.” She described chronic homelessness as a situation where a person is homeless for over a year, or three times in a span of five years; homeless before going to jail; or homeless before going into a program for psychiatric care.
“Some people are reluctant to help [the homeless] because they think that the homeless are lazy, unkempt, and don’t want to go get jobs,” Anna Smith, education major, said.
According to Petela, most of the homeless she said she interacts with are filling out applications and are on the phone contacting potential employers all day.