According to Connecticut’s Coordinated Action Network (CAN) registry, on February 16, 2021 there were 460 homeless individuals in Greater New Haven. This is an increase of 103 persons from the previous year. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased economic insecurity, and by the same token housing insecurity. However, it has also created a window of opportunity to rethink how New Haven approaches homelessness.
During the pandemic, in addition to providing hotel accommodations for homeless individuals, the city of New Haven allowed a tent encampment along West River, in light of the urgent need to decompress congregate shelters. With the support of Amistad Catholic Worker, the tent encampment - hereafter referred to as Tent City - has grown and achieved a level of self-governance and structure. Tent City’s uncertain future and the positive developments this quasi-experiment in tacit-sanction has produced have prompted Amistad Catholic Worker to think about the role Tent City plays as a transitional space in addressing homelessness in New Haven and what can be done to build on its strengths. Amistad Catholic Worker is especially interested in understanding how a tiny house village would fit within the context of New Haven as a transitional living environment.
Even if we can get them into supportive housing, there isn't enough money to provide the wraparound service to keep them in that housing long term.
...like people getting kicked out. Life for reasons that don't seem reasonable, like and it's cold, it's wintertime. You're gonna kick someone out in January, like out of the blue?
It's important to provide as much dignity and privacy as we can to people, and that's going to help them heal as opposed to a prison-like congregate setting.
...there's a permanence to it [the Tent City] that we don't — our current policy doesn't acknowledge.
There are certain people for whom it's always unsafe to stay in a congregate shelter setting. There are people who need to stay in shelter all day, and not just overnight, because you know, they have medications they need to refrigerate or need to rest or you know, any number of things.
I think it's great in the sense that like it's localized, you know — like we get many services, many people that come here to help us and that know we're here.
Well I'd like to get my own apartment. I got a lot of disabilities. My whole left side is umm... Got a lot of disks. Stuff wrong with my neck. So, I got a lot of problems.
I know, it's not a one, two, three thing. So I'm not expecting to happen overnight. But, you know, eventually, you know, I would like housing.
They're very, very welcoming, very helpful ... they look out for you. I came back from downtown and I had food waiting for me inside my tent, you know, they actually think about you. So that was, you know, heartwarming.
It's called tent city, but it's more like the village. Just a little tight knit community here.