We’ve got big news to share with you: DESK is moving!
In the last year-and-a-half, our Board, staff, volunteers, partners, and Guests have been taking a long look in the mirror. We’ve put our heads together to consider what isn’t working for homelessness services in New Haven, and we developed a plan that would enable us to address those problems in a way that is collaborative, equitable, and progressive—and in a way that doubles-down on what DESK already does well: food and community.
Food is the cornerstone of what we do, but DESK has always been more than a soup kitchen. We provide a range of basic needs supplies, we offer a forum for outreach workers and healthcare staff to engage, and we help make connections so that those we serve can move beyond homelessness and beyond poverty. We do this as part of a broad, coordinated effort across New Haven, with more partners than we can count.
But it’s time to do even better, and to take the next step. DESK needs to be more accessible. We need to be in a more visible location, still close to Downtown, but street-level and forward-facing. We need to be open much longer hours, so folks can pop in for whatever they need whenever they need it—from a quiet spot to meet with their case manager to a bathroom or a cup of coffee. The people we serve need a “drop-in center,” where they can walk in and access resources, like healthcare, employment, or addiction services, or get assigned to a shelter bed that night. It’s an approach that is as logical as it is bold, and that requires collective impact. DESK will provide the space and the food; our partners will provide the specialized services. And together we will offer something new in our community.
After searching for more than a year, DESK finally found the right location and the right building. Last week, we purchased a modest, three-story building on State Street, two blocks from the New Haven Green.
This is a really big deal for DESK . . . but it’s an even bigger deal for homelessness services in New Haven. And for the people we serve, this will be a game-changer.
We’re not moving quite yet. It will happen in phases, and we’ll still be preparing meals on Temple Street in 2021. Although we intend to launch a lighter version of this new “drop-in and resource center” this winter as a response to seasonal and COVID needs, we will also need to complete renovations throughout the building before we can move in fully. Opening in a new location is both a response to the immediate need and an investment in DESK’s future. As we move forward, we’ll be decisive but strategic: we’ll take our time and do it right.
DESK has always relied on the community for support, and for more than fifteen years, our greatest community support has come from Center Church on the Green. They have graciously provided not only generous space in their Parish House on Temple Street, but also partnership and friendship. They have been our greatest benefactor, and we plan to keep them involved as we enter this new phase.
If the COVID pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that DESK’s volunteers and staff are unquestionably dedicated and fearlessly determined. Throughout this crisis, we have continued to be there for those who are most vulnerable and most in need in our community. And most importantly, we’ve done it safely and responsibly.
So whether it’s responding to an immediate pandemic or planning for the long-term, DESK is always ready to fulfill our mission with a “whatever-it-takes” approach.
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With the exciting news of our imminent move, there will be many questions, I’m sure. In the coming months, I will host a series of “Zoom happy-hours” to offer you additional details and get your input. YOU are part of our community, and so your feedback is critical to our success.
This past year has brought about some big changes for DESK; next year will bring even more. The Coronavirus pandemic has presented unimaginable challenges, but we have consistently turned those challenges into opportunities to be more than what was ever expected of a “soup kitchen.”
And so the question that remains now is: How can YOU help? We will of course need your support throughout this transition. Here’s what to do:
- Make a donation to this important effort here.
- Spread the word. Tell your friends, family, and colleagues about what we’re trying to do. Tell them how DESK is strategizing to ensure that those who are most in need not only have a place to eat, but a place to get the help they need to move to the next level.
- Stay involved by volunteering or organizing a drive. Throughout this big transition, we still need to take care of the day-to-day. DESK has always relied on a virtual army of volunteers and supporters in the community, and nothing about that will change.
Thank you as always!