As the cold weather descends, we at the Amistad Catholic Worker invite you to join in an urgent work of mercy…
Almost two years ago, a movement for justice, human rights and refuge for the homeless began at our table here at Amistad; a campaign called “Where, Then, Shall We Go?” which brought together a strong coalition of concerned citizens, both homeless and housed. It started as a response to proposed legislation being scheduled for deliberation at New Haven’s Board of Alders, which would have imposed a 10pm curfew on the New Haven Green, along with the City’s enforcement of its seasonal policy of closing the overflow shelter, sending more than a hundred additional people to New Haven’s streets on a nightly basis. Through several months of action which included marches on City Hall, press conferences, meetings with Mayor Harp, the claiming of unused public land as places of refuge for people with nowhere to go, and denouncing city development plans which failed to address the dire need to increase the low income housing stock, we were able to expose and decry several intolerable realities in our city that still need to be changed. Among these realities:
- Not only are there not enough shelter beds to accommodate the entire homeless population in our midst, but the City has no intention of either acknowledging or addressing that obligation. As we were literally told at Mayor Harp’s office in July 2014, the City has no answer to the question: “Where, then, shall we go?”
- Economic reality in our city and state- namely, the vast shortage of jobs that pay a living wage- combined with dwindling housing subsidies an uptick in gentrification plans which leave the poor behind, have created a permanent underclass of people in our urban centers who will remain homeless on any/every given night. As long as these conditions persist, efforts to find scarce apartments for people who are currently homeless, while crucial and necessary, will never eradicate homeless. Only systemic change can achieve that.
- IN NEW HAVEN, THERE IS NO PLACE FOR A PERSON WITHOUT SHELTER TO GO WHERE THE LAW PROTECTS THEM FROM ARREST, HARASSMENT, OR EVICTION. The failure of New Haven to provide adequate shelter, combined with it’s refusal to recognize the right of homeless people to take refuge, together, on unused public land, effectually criminalizes homelessness.
- The United Nations Universal Declaration On Human Rights has expressly condemned policies and laws that are currently enforced in cities throughout the United States, including New Haven, that criminalize homelessness.
Many who share the table here at Amistad have, on their own initiative, assumed leadership roles in the “Where, Then, Shall We Go” campaign, exposing the hardships that homeless people in New Haven face by having their legal status constantly jeopardized. Regrettably, their efforts have not yet resulted in a commitment from the city government to implement even the simple policy changes which would decriminalize their homelessness. On the contrary, it has come to light now that some in positions of power in our city are renewing their pursuit of legislation imposing a curfew on the Green.
In light of this continuing and intolerable situation, we’ve begun a community project meant to respond to the immediate needs of our friends who now face another harsh Winter on the streets, in the way, on the margins, and quite probably entangled in the criminal justice system. Through the grace and diligence of volunteers from several area churches, a large (16’x16’) wooden platform has been built aboveground in the backyard of the Amistad house of hospitality. Now we want to raise a shelter around that floor, one that is sturdy, insulated, environmentally responsibly built, and welcoming to friends and strangers in need of emergency hospitality.
Can you help? We’re looking for friends to join us on Saturday, November 7, at 9am, to begin this project. If you have any particular skills related to building things, this would be most welcome. We also need to raise at least $1000 to cover the building costs. Please contact us if you’d like to be involved. (To make a donation, checks can be made payable to Amistad Catholic Worker, or you can go to our website and use the Paypal donation button: amistadcw.wordpress.com).
Thank you. Peace and Blessings….
The Amistad Catholic Worker
203 Rosette Street, New Haven, CT, 06519