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Community Comes out for DESK in the Great Give!

Community Comes out for DESK in the Great Give!

Last week, Greater New Haven showed their love for DESK during the Great Give by raising over $60,000 in support of our mission and those it serves!

The Great Give is a 36-hour, community-wide event run by the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.  More than 500 nonprofits participated, raising almost $3.5 million in total.  During the campaign, 257 of DESK’s donors raised the third highest amount of any organization, a clear sign of the broad appeal of the work we do.

The campaign included matches sponsored by some of our most steadfast supporters, including the Crews-McKenzie Fund (who sponsored a $10,000 match for the third year in a row!), William W. Kelly ($5,000), A-1 Toyota ($2,500), the Mfund ($2,000), and Choate Rosemary School ($2,000).

The campaign ended with a Happy Hour at Trinity Bar & Restaurant, where a few dozen of our supporters gathered to raise a glass (some which were Star Wars-themed in honor of the date, May the Fourth) and spread some good cheer in honor of the incredible work our staff and volunteers have accomplished in the past year.

As part of the Great Give, our Executive Director joined Justin Farmer on WNHH (see below) to discuss the work we do at DESK.





DESK raises over $175,000 at its annual Breaking Bread Dinner presented by Yale Hospitality

DESK raises over $175,000 at its annual Breaking Bread Dinner presented by Yale Hospitality

DESK raises over $175,000 at its annual Breaking Bread Dinner presented by Yale Hospitality

New Haven, Conn., April 18, 2023 – Last month, Yale Hospitality hosted the annual Breaking Bread Dinner to support Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK). Held on March 17, 2023, more than 175 Guests were in attendance, including state and local elected officials; two mayoral candidates; heads of various Yale divisions (Yale Hospitality, Yale Ventures, Schwarzman Center, the Office of New Haven Affairs, etc.); Yale New Haven Health  representation from the top (including their CEO and chief of internal medicine) to frontline ER personnel; local business leaders (Chabaso, Tzedakah House, Svigals, Morgan Stanley New Haven, etc.); representatives from partnering agencies (Liberty, New Reach, Christian Community Action, Fair Haven Health, Cornell Scott Hill Health, etc.); and DESK volunteers, staff, interns, clients, and Board members.

The ticket sales, sponsorships, and donations raised over $75,000 in support of the renovations to DESK’s Drop-in & Resource Center at 266 State Street.  In addition, Yale’s Director of New Haven Affairs, Lauren Zucker, announced the university’s generous contribution of $100,000 to the campaign.

The $175,000 raised at Breaking Bread will go toward DESK’s $3.5 million renovation of its 266 State Street location, which will begin in May. As part of the renovation, a new, modern, energy-efficient commercial kitchen,  and a medical clinic, staffed by Cornell Scott Hill Health Center’s Homeless Health Care Department. There will also be additional providers onsite, that will be able to conduct private, one-on-one consultations with the people DESK serves.  All of this will be connected by a new ADA-compliant elevator, a new stairwell, and a modern integrated HVAC system.

As DESK’s Executive Director, Steve Werlin, explained to those in attendance:

For the last two years, DESK has been assembling a coalition of private and public funders.  We’ve secured funding from the City of New Haven, from the state, and, thanks to our guardian angel in Washington, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, from the federal government.

With the success of the Breaking Bread fundraiser, DESK is now 85 percent of the way to their full campaign goal.  More information on this campaign the renovations can be found at

There are more than 600 people experiencing homelessness in New Haven on any given night. The Drop-In & Resource Center, or DRC, opened in 2021 as a service hub designed to link those who are unhoused to a network of services that can move them beyond homelessness by providing both basic needs, as well as next-level support services—like shelter, housing, employment, income assistance, mental health, substance use treatment, and medical care.

For more information contact Luis Olmo-Rivera, Development Director at (475) 238-6170 or by email at:




New Alliance Foundation awards DESK William W. Bouton III Grant

New Alliance Foundation awards DESK William W. Bouton III Grant

We are excited to share New Alliance Foundation’s press release in support of DESK, which went out today:

For Immediate Release

Contact: Luis Olmo-Rivera                           Maryann Ott
Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Inc.        New Alliance Foundation
(475) 238-6170                                            (203) 859-6555                     


New Alliance Foundation Awards Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen the William W. Bouton III Grant.

New Haven, Conn., February 24, 2023 – In honor of the life and legacy of New Alliance Foundation board member William W. Bouton III, the New Alliance Foundation is pleased to announce that Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) is the recipient of the $10,000 grant for demonstrating creativity and “out of the box” thinking in pursuit of its mission.

In 2019, DESK decided to do something bold and new: they decided to open New Haven’s first Downtown Drop-in & Resource Center for people experiencing homelessness. However, this decision was not made in a vacuum. To determine the needs of the people DESK serves, they went directly to the people and asked. Through a series of interviews, focus groups, and a half-day workshop, they uncovered the barriers that hold clients from moving beyond homelessness. DESK created such a space, opening the doors to New Haven’s first Downtown Drop-In & Resource Center in April 2021.

There are more than 600 people experiencing homelessness in New Haven on any given night, and most do not have a shelter bed. The Drop-In & Resource Center, or DRC, was designed to link those who are unhoused to a network of services that can move them beyond homelessness by providing both basic needs, as well as next-level support services—like shelter, housing, employment, income assistance, mental health, substance use treatment, and medical care.

The DRC served over 900 people in its first year and continues to host more than 40 people daily. In the darkest days of the pandemic, DESK stayed true to its mission and created a new and innovative program that addresses the unique needs of people experiencing homelessness and meaningfully impacts the lives of those in need.

About Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen:

DESK is a New Haven-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves people experiencing homelessness or living in poverty by providing food assistance and services that promote health, community, and equity.  Each year, DESK serves more than 4,000 people through an evening meals program, a weekly food pantry, the Downtown Drop-in & Resource Center for people experiencing homelessness, and an overnight warming center.  More information can be found at


About The New Alliance Foundation:

As an independent charitable foundation, the mission of NewAlliance Foundation is to support organizations that advance literacy, build communities, and dismantle systems that perpetuate poverty and racism. A segment of our grant-making is targeted toward programs which empower people through the development of literacy skills. More information can be found at


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Offering Recommendations & Demanding Action

Offering Recommendations & Demanding Action

DESK staff stood alongside members of U-ACT (the Unhoused Activists Community Team) in the City of New Haven’s Aldermanic Chamber earlier this week.  On Wednesday night, the Board of Alders Joint Community Development/Human Services Committee held a public hearing at City Hall on the Mayor’s proposal to accept $4.8 million in federal funding through the HOME-ARP program.  DESK and U-ACT took the opportunity to make recommendations on how this funding should be spent, with the latter especially reiterating and emphasizing their list of demands.

DESK’s recommendations were developed in coordination with the Greater New Haven Regional Alliance to End Homelessness, and our Executive Director, Steve Werlin, gave oral testimony alongside our partners from Columbus House, Liberty Community Services, and Fellowship Place.  (Watch the testimonies below.)  In addition, DESK worked with the Alliance’s Advocacy Committee to draft written testimony, copied-and-pasted below.

For recent news coverage of this hearing, check out the articles in the New Haven Register, New Haven Independent, and Yale Daily News


Testimony regarding the City of New Haven’s Proposed Acceptance and Use of HOME-ARP Funding


Submitted by: Greater New Haven Regional Alliance to End Homelessness


February 17, 2023


Dear Alder Brackeen, Alder Douglass, and the Members of the Board of Alders’ Health and Human Services Committee and Community Development Committee:


The Greater New Haven Regional Alliance to End Homelessness (the “Alliance”) is composed of more than twenty organizations and agencies.  (See below for a full list of members.)  Direct service agencies include providers of shelter, housing, outreach, day programs, seasonal emergency overnight programs, and a range of support services.  Many of these direct service organizations are past and current contractors with the City of New Haven.


Like so many other cities across our country, New Haven is in the midst of a homelessness and housing crisis.  In Greater New Haven, we currently have 623 people on the by-name list, that is, people whose homelessness status has been verified (which doesn’t account for the untold number whose homelessness status has not yet been verified); additionally, we have 138 people who have been matched to a housing voucher but who have not yet been housed.  In other words, we have a lot of residents who are actively experiencing homelessness and a lot of people who are move-in ready but can’t find a place to live.


Under the proposed $4.8 million in HOME-ARP funding, the City of New Haven intends to spend $4 million on affordable housing development and more than half-a-million on supportive services.  


Based on the current state of need, the Alliance would like to offer up four recommendations to refine this proposal.


First, of the $4 million proposed, we recommend that $1 million is reallocated to the Development of Non-Congregate Shelter, a separate allowable expense under HOME-ARP.  In all areas of public service, the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us valuable lessons, and homelessness services are no different.  In 2020, New Haven, along with our partners across the state, moved quickly to decompress our congregate shelters into hotel rooms.  This provided a more appropriate setting for people seeking to move beyond homelessness, giving them private space, more freedom, and the ability to address recovery and mental health needs more fully, while helping to reduce the stigma and fear associated with congregate shelter.  Non-congregate shelter, that is, private, individual rooms, enables couples to stay together and allows for individuals to keep their pets, both of which pose barriers to shelter currently.  Non-congregate shelter is a recognized best-practice, which, by the way, is precisely why it is highlighted as an allowable expense under HOME-ARP.


But despite this best practice, New Haven currently offers no non-congregate shelter option for most individuals.  Moreover, New Haven is in desperate need of more shelter space altogether.  With reduced capacity at Columbus House’s Overflow Shelter and the closing of the ESMS’s Grand Ave Shelter, we are down 110 shelter beds this winter compared to the pre-pandemic level.  To pick up the slack in New Haven, five organizations—DESK, Upon This Rock Ministries, the 180 Center, and Varick AME Zion Church, as well as Columbus House in Hamden—are offering 140 or so spots in warming centers; they all go over capacity regularly.  As most agree, warming centers are a very poor substitute for real shelter.  Warming centers do not have showers, they do not have beds, they do not have lockers.  They are simply rooms for people to not freeze to death—period.  Our emergency response system is overwhelmed and needs more shelter space.  The state has already committed $5 million to support the outfitting of non-congregate shelter in New Haven, but that will not be enough.  We recommend that $1 million in HOME-ARP funds be used to support the creation of more shelter capacity in New Haven in a manner that reflects best practice.


Second, the Alliance recommends that of the remaining $3 million put toward the Development of Affordable Rental Housing, $1 million be used to rehabilitate and sustain existing units, rather than create new units altogether.  The current housing stock is depleted in part because existing units need to be renovated to ensure that they are in compliance with HUD quality standards.  Sustaining existing units will also help to ensure that affordable housing units can be brought online and filled quickly so as to alleviate the overwhelming number of people accessing emergency services, like the warming centers, right now.


Third, the Alliance recommends that the remaining $2 million put toward the Development of new Affordable Rental Housing construction be specifically stipulated for the development of deeply affordable single-room occupancy, or SRO, units, located in neighborhoods that already have services and public amenities available.  A conservative estimate puts the cost of a newly-constructed 800-sq-ft., one-bedroom unit at about $218,000 per unit, meaning that $2 million would only create about nine units.  The creation of SRO’s, on the other hand, gets you more bang for your buck—with an estimated per unit cost of $75,000, $2 million would develop about 27 units.  


In addition, SRO’s offer an important alternative option for people exiting homelessness, many of whom, having experienced long-term, chronic homelessness, might struggle to maintain a full apartment.  Direct service providers are all too familiar with the experience of helping an individual to get housed, only to find them back out on the street within a year; this occurs in part because of the difficulties posed by independent living.  Chronic homelessness is a traumatic experience.   Dedicated SRO’s in a communal complex offer an important alternative to scattered-site, one- or two-bedroom apartments, especially when there are support services immediately available onsite.


Fourth, and finally, the Alliance recommends that, to the extent that HOME-ARP funding allows, the $500,000 proposed in supportive services include flexible funds that would enable service providers to offer immediate assistance to get and keep people housed.  Such uses would include prevention funds to cover back-rent, immediate short-term funding to cover move-in costs, like security deposit and first-month’s rent, and moving and furnishing costs.  When it comes to exiting homelessness, there is no one path and there’s rarely a straight line, especially when the process is buttressed with such complex funding streams.  Providers need the flexibility in their support services provision to ensure that they can offer the right kind of help at the right time.  We recommend that this flexibility is explicitly stipulated in the allowable uses of HOME-ARP Supportive Services funding when the City RFP’s this out to nonprofit contractors.


The following two tables below contrast the City’s proposed use of the HOME-ARP funds (Table 1) with the Alliance’s proposed used of the funds (Table 2).


Table 1: City’s Proposed Funding Use

Supportive Services $502,875
Development of Non-congregate Shelter $0
Development of Affordable Rental Housing
  (~18 one-bedroom apartments)
Administration & Planning $350,000
TOTAL $4,852,875

Table 2: Alliance’s Proposed Funding Use

Supportive Services, with “flex funding” included among allowable expenses $502,875
Development of Non-congregate Shelter $1,000,000
Development of Affordable Rental Housing $3,000,000
     Rehab of Existing Units $1,000,000    
     Creation of ~27 new SRO’s $2,000,000    
Administration & Planning $350,000
TOTAL $4,852,875


Thank you for considering our recommendations.


Margaret Middleton, Co-Chair
GNH Regional Alliance to End Homelessness
CEO, Columbus House


Jennifer Paradis
Co-Chair, GNH Regional Alliance to End Homelessness

Executive Director, Beth-El Center


Greater New Haven Regional Alliance to End Homelessness
Beth-El Center
Christian Community Action
Columbus House
Community Action Agency of New Haven
Connecticut Mental Health Center
Continuum of Care
Cornell Scott Hill Health Center
The Connection
Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen
Elm City Communities/Housing Authority of New Haven
Fellowship Place
Liberty Community Services
New Haven Pride Center
New Reach
Spooner House
TEAM, Inc.
United Way of Greater New Haven
Yale New Haven Hospital
Youth Continuum

UPDATE (Thursday, March 9, 2023)

They accepted our recommendations!  On Tuesday night, the Board of Alders passed a resolution to move forward with the HOME-ARP funding, with an amendment that included a reallocation of $1 million in funding to non-congregate shelter, as we suggested.  In addition, the Board of Alders stipulated that the grant be overseen by an advisory committee that includes a member of the Greater New Haven Regional Alliance to End Homelessness and the Unhoused Activists Community Team.  Here’s the coverage in the New Haven Independent and the New Haven Register, the latter of which included the following statement made by DESK’s Executive Director on the behalf of the Alliance:

The Greater New Haven Regional Alliance to End Homelessness is thrilled to see the City taking seriously the need for emergency services for unhoused individuals in the form of non-congregate shelter.  Although $1 million will not alone cover the needed costs, this is an important demonstration of the City’s role and responsibility, and we’re confident that other public and private funders will see the value of addressing this crisis through collaborative efforts.  We’re equally enthused that the City has chosen to appoint an advisory committee that includes a provider affiliated with the Alliance and a person with lived experience through U-ACT.  Doing so is not only a logical best-practice in the deployment of public funding; it is an acknowledgement of the wealth of expertise that exists in our community.
NYT Interactive: What’s Homelessness Look Like?

NYT Interactive: What’s Homelessness Look Like?

As part of their Headway series, The New York Times recently posted an interactive page of interviews with thirty individuals from all over the U.S. who have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness.  It’s powerful, illuminating, and, most importantly, humanizing.  You don’t need to read it all at once, and you can bounce around and read different responses to the questions.  Take some time to open both your heart and mind up to their responses, their stories, and their lives.  Read on here.