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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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NHR: Spike in New Haven overdose deaths prompts expanded harm reduction efforts

NHR: Spike in New Haven overdose deaths prompts expanded harm reduction efforts

The New Haven Register reported yesterday on the recent spike in opioid overdose deaths in New Haven:

Officials earlier this week reported that 12 people had fatally overdosed since Jan. 25 — a threefold increase in the number of weekly overdose deaths, which is typically is two. A mixture of crack cocaine and fentanyl was suspected to be the cause of the overdoses, officials said.

According to New Haven Health Director Maritza Bond, the lethal combination of the two drugs has started circulating more frequently throughout the community, resulting in the increase of fatal overdoses over the same two-week period last year. Bond stressed that city health officials remained committed to responding to the crisis with existing services while identifying new ways to expand their outreach to those in need.  [Read on here.]

DESK has been providing overdose prevention and harm reduction services since 2018, when we began training staff to administer naloxone to reverse overdoses and installed syringe disposal boxes in our bathrooms, both as part of a partnership with New Haven County Outreach and CT Harm Reduction Alliance.  The ongoing trainings, which we’ve also brought to local businesses, have enabled our staff to save nearly a dozen lives in the past few years, both on- and off-site.

Make no mistake, New Haven: We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic and public health crisis that can only be addressed through these sorts of compassionate and progressive approaches that treat people who use drugs as just that: people.  We are proud to partner with the New Haven Health Department, the Community Health Care Van, Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, SWAN, and others to do the critical work on the ground; we’re grateful to have such an incredible community of caring providers in our city!

Severe Cold Temperatures: DESK Steps up

Severe Cold Temperatures: DESK Steps up

Frigid New England temperatures present the most dire threat to those we serve at DESK. While most of us were stocking up on supplies so we could stay home and avoid the worst of it, those experiencing homelessness in our community were looking for a lifeline.

Last Thursday, Governor Lamont enacted the Severe Cold Weather Protocol. Program Manager Evan Serio and the warming center team at DESK sprang into action to assist the state’s most vulnerable population: unhoused and unsheltered individuals.

During the cold weather crisis this past weekend, DESK’s Guests were able to stay safe, charge up their cell phones, access internet, get something to eat, and receive referrals to much-needed services.

“Oftentimes, it’s a breath of relief and really just a moment to gather themselves,” said Evan Serio, Program Manager for DESK.

Serving those most in need means being there when we’re needed.

Watch the full story here on Fox 61 News and learn about how DESK is working to help people move beyond homelessness.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro Announces $1.4 million in Funding for DESK!

Rep. Rosa DeLauro Announces $1.4 million in Funding for DESK!

Yesterday was a special day for DESK as one of our strongest advocates stopped by our Drop-in & Resource Center for a very special occasion. In the final days of 2022, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro secured over $1.4 million for renovations to DESK’s Drop-in & Resource Center.

This announcement marks a huge milestone for DESK, Cornell Scott – Hill Health Center, and the people we serve. The renovations to 266 State Street include a medical clinic staffed by Hill Health’s Homeless Healthcare Department, providing low barrier access to critical medical services for unhoused individuals, as well as a new commercial kitchen to prepare the fresh and nutritious meals that feed more than 150 people nightly. 

DESK’s Executive Director, Steve Werlin, and Congresswoman DeLauro described the finished facility as “a front door” for key services needed by people experiencing homelessness in our community.

“We’re going to continue to do what we’ve always done: provide basic needs,” said Werlin. “We’re [also] going to have next-level and specialized services offered on site … We will encourage and welcome and affirm all individuals, regardless of whatever hardships they’re bringing into the space when they come.” 

Watch the full press conference here, and learn more about how two community institutions are working together to help people move beyond homelessness. WATCH NOW!

You can also find media coverage of this announcement through the New Haven Independent, New Haven Register, and Yale Daily News.

Drop-In Center Opens For Homeless

Drop-In Center Opens For Homeless

The following article appeared in the New Haven Independent on June 11, 2021. The original post, along with reader comments, can be viewed here.

by Isaac Yu

For the first time in decades, homeless New Haveners have a place downtown where they’re invited to come hang out, have an iced drink, socialize, and escape from the summer heat, no questions asked.

That place is the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) drop-in facility at 266 State St. in the Ninth Square, inside a building the nonprofit purchased last December. DESK’s drop-in facility is open Sunday to Friday from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

This is the first step in DESK’s transition from 311 Temple St. to the new facility. Eventually, all of the nonprofit’s activities, including the original dinner service that kept people fed during the pandemic, will be at 266 State. The three-story building will provide not only basic necessities but a comfortable place to access a variety of higher-level resources.

The drop-in center revives a service the People’s Center provided in the 1990s, to give people downtown with nowhere else to go a safe dedicated place to hang out. Now people often end up in public places primarily devoted to other uses.

The drop-in center opened in April.

“We’re focused on serving the whole person,” DESK Executive Director Steve Werlin said. “The goal of this program is to provide people who have no place else to go with a place to hang out during the day, get a cup of coffee, sit down, have something to eat, use wifi, meet with case managers or outreach workers. A place they can not fear of being kicked out -– a place they can call home.”

Eddy Rodriguez visits the drop-in center nearly every day. A tattoo artist, Rodriguez makes use of DESK’s provided color pencils to “clear my mind.”

“It’s an environment where you can just relax and not worry constantly,” he said.

Two visitors on Wednesday, who gave their names as Harley and Joker, echoed those sentiments. Both said they have gotten to know Werlin and other staff members and praised the atmosphere of the new facility.

“It’s my three hours where I don’t have to worry,” Harley said. “They treat me like a human being. You’ll always find a friendly person with a smile. And it’s caring from a genuine place, and this is the only place that has helped us indiscriminately.”

A visitor who gave his name as John said that DESK’s dinner service became an invaluable resource after he was laid off from his job in hospitality during the pandemic and couldn’t meet his rent. Now the new drop-in services are making DESK “better and better and better.”

DESK “helped many people get through the pandemic, and it’s still helping them now,” John said.

The drop-in facility is typically staffed with two employees, known as “site specialists,” as well as a few volunteers. For site specialist Angela Lewis, who typically works at DESK’s original Temple Street soup kitchen, the new space is a shift. Though the crowds at each location overlap, she said, the drop-in center is “calmer” and allows her to connect with the visitors she serves.

Werlin noted that one of the new goals for the space is blurring the lines between providing and receiving services. Joan Morrison is a weekly volunteer with DESK. On Wednesday, she was manning the refreshments kiosk, handing out bottles of water, seltzer and iced tea. When she has downtime,  Morrison finds a place to sit, chatting with visitors and hearing life stories.

“I do like listening to people talk. That’s what I like about coming here. You never know who’s going to be here and what they’ll talk about,” she said.

Marty Cobern, who was manning the front desk on Monday, said he has seen attendance over the last few weeks grow “tremendously,” with around 30 people frequenting the space daily.

DESK staff members are still working out some of the new building’s kinks. They haven’t been able to turn on the air conditioner yet, reyling on a giant fan to cool visitors. Problems in the basement led the team to temporarily close the bathroom on Monday, leading to some groans.

The second floor is currently unfinished and will be fully open once DESK raises money for and installs an elevator to make the space accessible. Besides hosting a hospital-grade bathroom and conference rooms, it will serve as a flexible work space for the nonprofit’s various partners, which include the Cornell-Scott Hill Health Center and the Sex Workers and Allies Network. DESK’s long-term vision, Werlin said, is to make the State Street facility a centralized hub for the homeless.

“What we’ve found over the years was that people were coming to us for food, for a meal, but because they felt comfortable in our space, they were able to easily connect to other services and build some rapport with social workers and outreach workers. This is us doubling down on that idea.”

These partner groups have previously worked with DESK visitors at their space on Temple Street, and are currently utilizing the first-floor drop-in space. The second floor will allow for more private or sensitive conversations.

“It’s a great resource,” Hill Health nurse practitioner Anna Graham said of the new building. “This is a consistent space where we can follow up on things.”

Meanwhile, the third floor serves as office space for DESK’s growing staff. The previous office, Werlin said, fit just two people crammed into a tiny space. Now, newly-hired project managers and existing staff have a spacious open-concept office.

“Growth is such a good thing!” Werlin said. “We knew that as we were expanding that we would need office space, so this building is great.”

Also added to the team was data analyst Wendy McLeod. DESK has always recorded its daily attendance, but “finally” has a dedicated staff member to interpret that data in a useful way, she said. Looking at the numbers, McLeod said, revealed that the pandemic-induced curbside services DESK added last year actually increased, rather than the volume of visitors served, which could prompt directors to make those programs more permanent.

“What we do is give people the reassurance that they can deny giving us information and still use the service,” McLeod said. “It builds trust, and makes the person more important than the service. It’s all about how we can gather data and be more efficient without stripping away their dignity.”