CT Communities Should Share Ideas About Homeless Services – Hartford Courant

More than 500 visits.

These are visits to a unique pop-up site that had hot showers and now also haircuts.

All free.

It’s too good to be true?

Not in one of Connecticut’s biggest cities.

The services are for people who are homeless, and the idea is not just to provide a clean shower, but also to offer respect to those who need to use the facility.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker noted that the mobile facility, recently parked in downtown Green of the Elm City, is using resources to “welcome and support everyone” and especially “people who have really bad.”

In Connecticut, that includes a lot of people. According to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, 2,594 people were homeless on the cold night of Tuesday, January 26, 2021, when a one-time count took place. This is a 10.7% drop in the number of homeless people from the previous year’s tally, according to the coalition.

And while New Haven, Hartford and other Connecticut cities are stepping up to help state residents experiencing homelessness, the number of people experiencing homelessness remains a tragedy.

There are ways communities and government agencies can help — whether it’s the state’s 211 system for finding a bed, the many privately and publicly run shelters and services, or Hartford’s warming centers during cold winter nights.

But there’s something more to offering a hot shower and a haircut and a real sense of community in how it’s done that other towns would do well to consider.

In New Haven, the city is partnering with Power in a Shower, 400 Barbers LLC, the Community Health Care Van and other providers including government, nonprofits and churches providing support.

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Power in a Shower is a non-profit organization and, according to its website, currently offers showers in New York and New Haven (often at more private sites than a green city).

“We’re making a difference, one shower at a time,” Millie Harris, who brought Power in a Shower to New Haven in March with her husband, Walter Harris, told Le Courant.

In conjunction with that city’s Housing and Homelessness Services Office, healthcare kits, socks and t-shirts and hygiene items are also available for those who come in for showers.

New Haven uses funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, in addition to budgeted funds and volunteers, to offer the one-stop pop-up services.

Given the kind of collaboration it took to get this type of service started, we bet New Haven officials and community and faith leaders would be willing to share with other communities how they accomplished it.

That would be a good conversation to have.

As Elicker noted, it’s important to treat everyone with dignity and respect and “the reality is that any of us could be homeless.”

About Catharine C. Bean

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