Impactful Philanthropy Unites DESK, Saltzman, and Jewish Foundation

Impactful Philanthropy Unites DESK, Saltzman, and Jewish Foundation

[New Haven, CT; September 19, 2023] — Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK), a New Haven institution since 1987, has been a steadfast support for the city’s food-insecure residents. Expanding its mission, DESK recently opened a daytime Drop-in & Resource Center to help unsheltered homeless individuals.

Steve Saltzman, partner at Brenner, Saltzman & Wallman LLP, witnessed DESK’s journey and felt a responsibility to act. He noted, “It’s important that we support the entire community.” Saltzman initiated change by engaging the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven, known for connecting philanthropists with aligned causes.

Collaborating with Lisa Stanger, the Executive Director of the Jewish Foundation, Saltzman established the Saltzman Family Fund, dedicated to enhancing DESK’s mission. Stanger affirmed, “The Saltzman Family Fund is a beacon of the Jewish Foundation’s commitment to fostering collaboration. We’re thrilled to support DESK’s future through the Saltzman Family Fund.”

Luis Olmo-Rivera, DESK’s Development Director, explained that the fund will initially cover operational expenses for DESK’s flagship programs. The long-term vision is to channel these resources toward pioneering services aligned with evolving community needs.

Steve Saltzman’s philanthropic contributions extend beyond DESK. He established endowment funds at the Jewish Foundation, backing a range of initiatives including; support for the Jewish Cemetery Association of Greater New Haven, Holocaust Education through the ADL, Friends of Jewish Heritage Poland, a PACE Fund (Perpetual Annual Campaign Endowment) for the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign, a Donor Advised Fund, and a LOJE fund (Lion of Judah Endowment) in memory of his late wife, Marilyn, to endow her Lion of Judah gift to the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign.

In the coming months, DESK will highlight Saltzman’s donation, by hosting an event in his honor. This exclusive gathering aims to inspire the community to join DESK’s “Legacy Society” and secure the future of essential community services in Greater New Haven.

The Saltzman Family Fund, DESK, and the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven exemplify transformative philanthropy’s power. Through donor collaboration, endowment expertise, and community commitment, these organizations will shape the future through impactful philanthropy.

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

Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven promotes philanthropy with a variety of donors and community organizations to achieve charitable goals and increase current and future support for a vibrant and secure Jewish community by providing expert endowment management services and philanthropic advice and education to donors, professional advisors, and organizations. Discover more at


Luis Olmo-Rivera, Development Director                  Sarah Domena, Marketing Director
Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Inc.                     Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven
475.227.3184                                                            203.387.2424 ext. 384

Remembering those we’ve lost…

Remembering those we’ve lost…

Opioid overdoses are now the leading cause of death for people under 40; and in the US last year, more people died from opioid overdoses than from car accidents. At DESK we’ve lost several people over the years, as recently as this past weekend. Below are a few poems that we selected to honor those we’ve lost during the opioid epidemic. Please feel free to leave a comment in memory of someone you lost. If any of these poems resonate with you, please share your thoughts.


93, 331 by Alicia Cook
In some other timeline
I find you in time,
turn you on your side.
In some other timeline,
I beat the sirens home
and you don’t die alone.
In some other timeline,
you recover⁠— and no one needs to call your mother.


Poem by Peter Jones
Could you walk in our shoes?
Live the lives we do?
No longer here to tell you
The things we have to do.

Everybody judged us
They gave us all a name
When we were out just walking
We’d hang our heads in shame.

So now we’re just a memory
One some choose to forget
But one thing to remember
There will be some more yet.

Not one of us are perfect
May not choose what we do
So please, please remember!
One day this could be you.

So would you like to take a step?
Walk just where we do
If you think it’s easy
Please come and take my shoe.


Fentanyl by Brian Wells Kamloops
Remember, no such thing as safe drugs in the streets.
Dealers cutting product with fentanyl ‘cause it’s cheap.
A hundred times stronger than morphine.
One dose could put you to sleep.
Not talking counting sheep.
Real power, six ODs in an hour.
Being found in weed, pills, and powder.
New fad. Coroner coming to zip you up in a body bag.
Four deaths in a month really sad.
Kids left with no mom or dad, all because the dope they got was bad.
Addiction, an epidemic the black market is glad to have.

Streets not a game, chew you up, spit you out if you’re lucky.
Many people die getting high, just trying to feel normal.
Prison not the answer, a need for more rehab centres.
So, I looked at my own situation I was facing.
Waking every day like I was in the movie Groundhog Day.
Always the same, mentally drained, suffering chronic pain.
Let me be the first to say, I’m an addict.
Understand the hesitation in prescribing narcotics.
So, forced to go see the street doctor. No degree but has what I need.

I plead, Dear God, please don’t be fentanyl in these pills I receive.
No labels or warning, mixed wrong could be fatal.
Talking two extra grains, the size of salt at your kitchen table.
Call of a OD. Coroner records another fatality.
A young girl, age 16, solutions needed.
Funerals continuously being repeated.
Takes one line, one innocent looking line.
Another family left behind, crying a river of pain, drowning in regret.
Death’s never had no respect.


Someone’s Child
Behind every addiction, there is a family that is suffering.
Remembering those who have lost their battle with addiction,
and those who are still suffering.

Advocating for State Funding

Advocating for State Funding

Last night, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee held a hearing as they consider the Governor’s proposed budget for the next two fiscal years.  I was grateful to have the opportunity to offer some general comments on the proposed allocations to homelessness services.  You can watch my 3-minute oral testimony below.  The even shorter version is: It’s simply not enough.

DESK works closely with partners locally through the Greater New Haven Regional Alliance to End Homelessness and across the state through Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.  Through these groups, we signed onto a legislative agenda that focused on four important areas to Rescue the Homeless Response System:

  1. Fund the Frontlines:  We want frontline workers to be paid at least a living wage; this means that the wages paid by state contracts need to keep up with inflation and the increased costs of living in our state.
  2. CAN Infrastructure:  Over the last ten years, providers in Connecticut have been working very hard to build a system that can get people into shelter and housing (and out of homelessness!) as quickly as possible . . . but it’s crippled by a lack of resources.  If we want something to work as intended, we need to be willing to pay for it.
  3. Cold Weather Funding:  Seasonal overflow shelters, warming center, increased outreach efforts . . . none of these life-saving emergency-response efforts each winter are paid for.  We cobble together services each winter without any assurances each winter.  We need the state to commit to funding cold weather services every year.
  4. Flexible Spending:  There’s no straight path or one-size-fits-all strategy to getting out of homelessness.  A pot of flexible spending will enable people to avoid eviction, cover a security deposit, or pay for moving costs.

I unpacked all this further in my written testimony, in the hopes that legislators will take these recommendations under consideration in their response to the Governor’s proposed budget.

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.
Housing Committee Hearing

Housing Committee Hearing

Today, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Housing Committee held their first ever public hearing on homelessness!  DESK’s Executive Director, Steve Werlin, joined our partners from across the state to offer testimony in-person for H.B. No. 6554, “An Act Appropriating Funds for Certain Homelessness Response Programs,” and DESK’s DRC Manager, Evan Serio, submitted written testimony.  Included in this $50 million bill is funding for increased wages for front-line workers, improving our coordinated access networks, and permanent (“annualized”) funding for cold weather programming — like DESK’s overnight warming center this winter.

Take three minutes to watch Steve’s testimony in Hartford (below), and then consider some next steps so YOU can support H.B. No. 6554, too:

  • Familiarize yourself with the Legislative Agenda for the CT Coalition to End Homelessness, which breaks down all the specific asks in the bill (in two pages!).
  • Find your legislator and reach out by phone or email: Tell them you support the items in H.B. 6554 because it is an ethical imperative.
  • Advertise your good work on social media so you can encourage others to do the same, and don’t forget to tag DESK!