Solving Homelessness in the US: A Discussion of Causes and Solutions

Solving Homelessness in the US: A Discussion of Causes and Solutions

I just listened to this podcast which laid out some very complex problems around homelessness in the US in ways that are clear and easy to follow.  Highly recommended for those who wish to understand the most effective ways to solve homelessness, addressing questions like:

  • What should be done about encampments?
  • Are mental health and substance use really “root causes” of widespread homelessness, or is this really a housing problem?
  • What do researchers means when they say “housing problem”?
  • Where are the most effective policies in solving homelessness, and where is the partisan divide?  (Spoiler: It’s not where you might think!)
  • Why does California have 30 percent of the unsheltered population in the US while only 12 percent of the total US population, and is this a preview of things-to-come in other states?

Shout out to Margaret Middleton for the recommendation!

From the show’s description: 

California has around half of the nation’s unsheltered homeless population. The state’s homelessness crisis has become a talking point for Republicans and a warning sign for Democrats in blue cities and states across the country.

 

Last month, the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco, released a landmark report about homelessness in the state, drawing from nearly 3,200 questionnaires and 365 in-depth interviews. It is the single deepest study on homelessness in America in decades. And the report is packed with findings that shed new light not only on California’s homelessness problem but also on housing affordability nationwide.

 

Jerusalem Demsas is a staff writer at The Atlantic who has written extensively about the interlocking problems of housing affordability and homelessness in America. So I asked her on the show to walk me through the core findings of the study, what we know about the causes of homelessness, and what solutions exist to address it. We discuss the surprising process by which people end up homeless in the first place, the “scarring” effect that homelessness can have on their future prospects, the importance of thinking of homelessness as a “flow,” not a “stock,” the benefits and limitations of “housing first” approaches to end homelessness, why Republican proposals for being tougher on the homeless can make the problem worse, why neither generous social safety nets nor private equity firms are to blame for homelessness, and more.

Finding Love through Volunteering!

Finding Love through Volunteering!

Andy and Jacinta are engaged to be married!

Over five years ago, this incredible couple met and instantly bonded over their shared values and commitment to serving those in need in their community. Naturally, that led them to DESK.

Their volunteer journey started in Bridgeport, where they drove a food truck and distributed free meals. That program was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they sprang into action during those unprecedented times and delivered groceries each week to those in need in the greater New Haven area. When that program cut back services, they found the Drop-In Resource Center at DESK and have been serving there once a week ever since.

Volunteering at DESK on Sundays is like [our] weekly church service. It’s often the highlight of our week. We love the familiar faces and appreciate the opportunity to check in on those we have grown to care for during our time at DESK,” said Jacinta. Their shared commitment to the community allows them to develop and maintain relationships with DESK clients like none other.

A few days before Valentine’s Day, Andy called our office asking to purchase matching aprons for him and Jacinta. When he arrived, he explained his grand plan and swore us to secrecy. Imagine our staff’s excitement to learn that DESK was incorporated into Andy’s proposal on Valentine’s Day! As Jacinta recounts, “Andy started Valentine’s Day with traditional gifts [such as] flowers, chocolates, and a card. Then to my surprise, he gifted me with a DESK apron, symbolizing our time volunteering together. This led to the ultimate gift, the engagement ring!”

Thank you Andy and Jacinta, for including us in your special moment and thank you for volunteering at DESK for almost two years!

At DESK, volunteers are both members of our broader community and part of our network of supporters and donors, and without their help, we would not be able to continue the great we do for those in need in our community.

If you or your group are interested in volunteering with us, you can reach out to our volunteer coordinator, Ryan, at volunteer@deskct.org or call (475) 238-6170.

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 deskct.org/capital.

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: lolmorivera@deskct.org.

 

 

 

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
lolmorivera@deskct.org                               mott@newalliancefoundation.org

 

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 www.deskct.org

 

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 www.newalliancefoundation.org

 

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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.