$100,000 Raised for Unhoused and Food Insecure People in New Haven

$100,000 Raised for Unhoused and Food Insecure People in New Haven

Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) is a New Haven-based nonprofit that serves people experiencing homelessness and living in poverty by providing food assistance and services that promote health, community, and equity.  Since 1987, they have served unhoused individuals just off the New Haven Green. Over the last twenty years, they have expanded their services to meet the changing needs, leading to the opening of their Drop-in & Resource Center in 2021 as a healing-oriented day program for unhoused individuals, offering a variety of basic needs, support services, and harm reduction interventions.

For more than 30 years, DESK has partnered with Yale Hospitality to provide food for their dinner program year-round, as well as support for the Thanksgiving for All program.  In 2017, Yale Hospitality began hosting the Breaking Bread Dinner; together, they have built up and expanded the event over the years.  Today, proceeds from the fundraiser account for about ten percent of DESK’s total annual budget.

This year’s Breaking Bread Dinner raised about $100,000 through ticket sales, sponsorships, and donations.

“We are so grateful to both Yale Hospitality and the Schwarzman Center for hosting Breaking Bread this year,” said Steve Werlin, DESK’s Executive Director. “It is precisely these sorts of committed, long-term relationships between Yale and community-based organizations that generate real, added value to New Haven and support those who are most in need at the grassroots level.”

At the event, DESK’s Board of Directors honored Rafi Taherian, the head of Yale Hospitality and outgoing Associate Vice President, who announced his retirement the day before the dinner.  As a former Board member himself, Taherian has supported DESK in a variety of ways for more than 25 years, including delivering meals on Thanksgiving morning each year.  “This collaboration is key,” noted Taherian on Friday night, as he was formally inducted into the McLean Society, DESK’s honorary group, named after one of their longest serving volunteers and past Board member, Scott McLean.

This year also marked the first time the event was held at the Yale Schwarzman Center (YSC), having outgrown the capacity of the university dining halls.  Maurice Harris, YSC’s Director of Communications, delivered the welcoming address and led attendees in the ceremonial breaking of the bread.  “Breaking bread together has been a principal theme for the Schwarzman Center since we opened,” said Harris, highlighting the natural connection between the center’s programs and DESK’s values.

Master of ceremonies, Bruce Barber of WNPR and WNHU, kept the evening light and entertaining, while Sommelier James Todeasa and Yale Hospitality’s Executive Chef and Director of Culinary Excellence James Benson described in great detail the efforts and considerations that went into creating the dinner’s experience.

Special guests included leaders of the Unhoused Activists Community Team (U-ACT), Carl Ferris and Alexis Terry, as well as several members of New Haven’s Board of Alders, including President Tyisha Walker-Myers, and members of Greater New Haven’s delegation to the Connecticut General Assembly.  Additionally, DESK’s Executive Director thanked a number of volunteers and Board members in attendance, and highlighted staff member Norm Clement, who saved the lives of three clients in the past year by reversing otherwise-fatal opioid overdoses.

Among the event’s most celebrated sponsors were Yale’s Office of New Haven Affairs, Morgan Stanley, PAC Group, Yale New Haven Health, Avangrid, and DOOR3.  Additional sponsors included the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Connecticut Health Foundation, the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven, Wiggin & Dana, Tzedakah House, STV, Inc., Svigals + Partners, Lazeez Indian Cuisine, Skurnik Wines & Spirits, Smith Party Rental, Fitzgerald’s Florist, Two Roads Brewing, New England Brewing Company, Waypoint Spirits, Athletic Brewing Company, North Coast Seafood, Baldo Speciality Foods, and US Foods. Dignity Music performed during the cocktail hour, and photography was provided by Melanie Stengel Photography, both of whom donated their services.

This year’s Breaking Bread Dinner comes at a time of nearly unprecedented need, with both homelessness and food insecurity at levels that have not been seen in Connecticut since the aftermath of the Great Recession, and annual rates of fatal opioid overdoses—overrepresented among unhoused people—continuing to climb.  Werlin remarked that “as pandemic-era federal funding streams have dried up, the need for this kind of private support is critical to ensuring lifesaving services, like those provided by DESK, can continue and expand.”

“The renovations to our Drop-in & Resource Center at 266 State Street,” he continued, “will mark an important step forward in providing  a front-door to services for unhoused individuals.”  Scheduled for completion this summer, the renewed space will include a full medical clinic staffed by Cornell Scott Hill Health Center, as well as offices for additional partners providing a range of frontline services.  More information about this project can be found at deskct.org/capital.  Those looking to support DESK should visit deskct.org/financial-contributions , or sign up to volunteer at deskct.org/volunteer.

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In Memoriam: Keith Petrulis

In Memoriam: Keith Petrulis

Last night, we said goodbye to Keith Petrulis.  His friends, family, and community gathered at Trinity Church on the Green for a two-hour memorial service organized by U-ACT, the Unhoused Activists Community Team.  More than a dozen people who knew and loved Keith got up to speak about his life and the ways he touched them.  Below are several eulogies that were delivered at the memorial.  (Update: Additional coverage appeared in the New Haven Independent and Yale Daily News.)

To honor Keith’s legacy, DESK has established the Keith Petrulis Stipend Fund, with all contributions restricted in use to stipends for people with lived experience who are participating in direct advocacy, activism, and governance service.

 

Keith’s Leadership

Steve Werlin, DESK

The week Keith passed away, I got a call early in the morning from a local TV reporter. He wanted to get a comment from me regarding the City’s proposal to buy a hotel out on Foxon Blvd and open a new, non-congregate shelter. I told him to meet me at DESK’s Drop-in Center at 9am.


So I got my kids off to school, hopped on my bike and headed downtown, and when I rolled up to DESK, Keith was sitting on the sidewalk, right out front, where he had spent the night.

 

In the months before that, Keith had been kicked out of a couple of other places where he had been sleeping in Ninth Square, not because he was leaving a mess or because he was causing any widespread public health or safety issue, but simply because people didn’t like the look of someone sleeping outside.  Keith ended up in front of our Drop-in Center because it was familiar.  “I feel safe here,” he said.


So that morning, after I gave my thoughts to the reporter, he asked me if Keith wanted to say a few words.  And I said to the reporter, “Don’t ask me. Ask
him.”  Keith didn’t bat an eye.  He simply shrugged and said, “Sure, why not.” 


Keith had only slept a few hours that night.  Aside from having been out on the sidewalk, his sleep apnea made it difficult for him to get more than a couple of hours at a time. So he was a little bleary-eyed.  As the reporter was clipping the microphone onto Keith’s shirt, I thought back to Keith’s first press conference as a member of U-ACT, back in December.  The group had just begun meeting a few months before, but we were entering winter, and we felt we needed to make a statement to the public to highlight the life-or-death choices people in Keith’s situation were facing in the coldest months of the year.  So we asked Keith to say a few words.  Understandably, he was nervous —
how do I look? will I say something stupid? will I freeze up and forget my own name?  Even at his first at-bat, he knocked it out of the park.  So much more of a natural public speaker than he ever gave himself credit for.


Over the course of the winter, Keith had the opportunity to flex his newfound skills as an advocate and activist in the public sphere.  He was finding his voice.  In the spring, the Conn. Coalition to End Homelessness invited Keith to take part in a panel discussion at their annual meeting, entitled, “Including Voices with Lived Experiences Equitably,” where he presented to a standing-room-only crowd of providers and funders.  He was not only advocating for himself and his friends; he was serving as a model for raising up voices that otherwise go unheard.


So that morning, Keith spoke to the reporter, one-on-one.  And as I listened to the exchange, I could feel my heart swelling.  There was something truly beautiful about the scene.  He spoke a little about his challenges on the street, because he was asked, but really he stayed focused on the new hotel-style shelter, what would work, what might not work — a real expert who
made his opinion known, because knew his opinion mattered.  


This past spring, Keith had been invited by the Board of Alders to join an advisory committee, reviewing the City’s shelter funding.  And they met for the first time just days before Keith’s passing.  I know he left that meeting a little frustrated.  He wanted to be helpful, he wanted to contribute, but he didn’t feel like his words were being valued — he walked away feeling that he was being listened to but not heard.  But he didn’t let that deter him.  He didn’t quit.  He resolved to press forward and keep working with city staff.  Keith was someone willing to put in the hard work of consensus-building.

 

I only knew Keith in the last few years of his life, and didn’t really get to know him well until the last ten or so months.  He lived a whole life before I knew him.  But a life’s-worth of experiences created the person I knew.  And so I feel incredibly fortunate to have met Keith when I did.  People are not, by and large, born as leaders; there isn’t really such a thing as a natural leader.  Leaders grow into that role through the experiences that shape their beliefs and actions. By the time of his death, Keith had lived those experiences and was embodying the qualities of a great leader.  Losing Keith means losing a leader in our community.


But in lieu of leadership, Keith has left us with the next best thing: inspiration.  Keith’s example, his commitment, and his passion can, should, and must inspire all of us in this room and beyond to make our community a better place for everyone, and to measure our collective health by the quality of life of those in the greatest of need.  And for this inspiration, I will always remember Keith, and I will always be grateful.

The Brother I Hardly Knew

Terryl Daluz

Hello, my name is Terryl Daluz. I am the eldest brother of Keith Petrulis. I want to start off by sending my deepest condolences to all those who loved Keith. I apologize for not being there in person, but I live in Los Angeles and was unable to get back to Connecticut in time for the services. Although Keith was my brother, I did not have the pleasure of getting to know this warm, kind-hearted man like some of you in this room. Unfortunately, Keith and I did not grow up together. We lived a totally different life, in different households, with a fifteen-year difference between us. What we share is the same father, Leroy Jones who is also now deceased. May they both rest in peace. It saddens me that I learned so much more about Keith in his death than when he was alive.

 

When I was notified by our sister Kia that our brother Keith had passed away, I paused for a moment and said “Our brother Keith?” To be honest, there was a moment when I thought, “Who is Keith?” I only met him once, almost ten years ago when I was first introduced to him by our father. Granted we did not grow up together, but he is still MY BROTHER. We share the same DNA, same bloodline, and hearing that I had a brother who was found dead on the street was a hard pill to swallow. I had mixed emotions. I did not know how to feel. I knew one thing, “NO HUMAN BEING SHOULD HAVE TO DIE ON A COLD PAVEMENT ALONE.”

 

That began my journey to find out who Keith really was. I read every newspaper article on Keith. I was happy to see that he was an active member of U-ACT, a strong advocate for the unhoused community of New Haven. I read how when Kaysie Mire felt scared and alone when she first came to the homeless drop-in center, Keith welcomed and comforted her. I read how Keith was such a good friend to Tyrell Jackson and together they complemented each other. I read how Billy Bromage of U-ACT stated that he was such a warm and funny person but always present for everyone. I was like, “WOW, how noble”! Here he was dealing with his own dilemmas but still took the time out to help others.

 

I wanted to know about Keith’s upbringing to get a better understanding of him. I was able to contact his uncle Paul Petrulis. Paul is the brother of Keith’s late mom Kathyrn Petrulis. May she rest in peace. Paul and his wife Judy Petrulis raised Keith from twelve to eighteen years old with their sons Andrew and Daniel Petrulis. Keith grew up in a loving home with them attending church, playing football, and being a member of the Junior Marine Corp. He had aspirations of becoming a marine.

 

Paul told me that he would take Keith on a regular to visit our grandmother Miss Gene Cobbs (Who is turning 97 this September 29th). Our sister Kia informed me that he lived with her for a while and that our nieces and nephews had a close relationship with him. Our brother LaRoi kept in contact with Keith and would hang out with him at some of the bars where Keith was a bouncer.

 

I also found out that Keith had Christy and Micheal Czekaj (pronounced check eye), rest in peace Christy, as an extended family who showed him lots of love and treated him like family throughout his life. Their children Wolly, Dennis, Abigail, and Elizabeth were like his siblings. Abigail and Keith had a close bond.

 

I felt a sense of guilt that I did not have the same experiences as everyone else had with him but It warmed my heart to know that Keith had loving relationships with so many people. So, how does a person that was loved by so many people, end up alone on the street? Without getting into the intricacies that impacted Keith’s life from a child to an adult, I can say he was dealt some bad cards.

 

When someone has trauma that they have experienced throughout their life, it doesn’t go away, they carry it with them, and if they do not receive the right care needed it can be detrimental. I am sure we all have experienced some form of trauma in our lives but imagine having to carry that around, while dealing with health issues and sleeping on the street in the rain. Some of you in the room may know exactly what that is like, some of you may be on the brink of it as we speak and some of you have been fortunate to not have a clue what it feels like to not have a place to go home to rest your head and clear your mind.

 

Unfortunately, Keith had to carry those burdens with him up until he took his last breath on August 7th, 2023, on that sidewalk alone in front of a place that was the closest thing to home for him. I wanted to tell his story because I wanted the world to know that Keith was more than just a headline that read “Homeless man found dead outside of a soup kitchen.” Keith was my brother, YOUR BROTHER, A FRIEND, A loving man, an advocate for social change who battled for equal rights as human beings to be rightfully housed! Please, let’s not let his death be in vain. THIS IS AMERICA! We need the resources to make sure that no human being has to experience what Keith had to experience.

 

Thank you, and may you all have a blessed day.

The Fighter

Billy Bromage

My name is Billy Bromage. I am an organizer with the Unhoused Activists Community Team, U-ACT. Keith was a fellow activist and also a friend, and he will continue to be a big influence on the way approach the activist work that U-ACT does.

 

I want to extend my sincere sympathy to Keith’s family, friends, fellow activists, and to all of the Greater New Haven community. This is a big loss for all of us. It is heartbreaking that Keith left us decades too soon.

 

 

When I saw the news that my fellow U-ACT leader, Carl Ferris, texted me about someone passing away overnight in front of DESK on August 7th, my heart sank. Somehow I knew it was Keith, even though I hoped with everything I had in me that it wasn’t him. When I got a text confirming the terrible news about an hour later from Kelly Fitzgerald, a champion of U-ACT since before we started, my heart broke.

 

Just a few days before Keith and I had met with Rev. Luk, the pastor of this very church, about placing lockers near the church, so people who are unhoused can store their belongings, which is one of U-ACT’s core demands – demands that Keith was instrumental in shaping and promoting. Two days later, on August 3rd, Keith texted me that he had just finished a Zoom meeting with a special committee that he was nominated for with a New Haven alder, a city official, and a service provider. Other speakers will share more about that committee and that meeting. That was the last text I got from him. The next morning, I was in a meeting with people who were interested in building other organizations like U-ACT in other cities in Connecticut, and Keith’s name and the work he was doing kept coming up. That weekend I was at a picnic with some activists from around the state, and when I was talking about U-ACT, I actually apologized to one of the activists because I was focusing so much of my comments on Keith’s contributions. U-ACT is planning a recruiting and training push this fall, and Keith was put forward as one of the key people to lead it.

 

Keith and I were in touch almost daily, either at the weekly U-ACT meetings on Wednesdays or at our community lunch and speak outs on the Green on Thursdays, or over text or the phone…or sometimes CashApp when he needed a little extra to get by that day. The thought that he would only be with me from the spirit world, and that we wouldn’t see each other so regularly, was almost too much to bear. I only knew Keith for a year, but he had a deep impact on me.

 

As others have said and will say, Keith was a fighter. He fought every day to survive on the streets of New Haven. And, he fought for his rights and the rights of so many people who were also unhoused, some he didn’t even know, but the truth is that he did know a lot of people. In a U-ACT meeting shortly before he passed, I sent around some sheets of paper we had been using during our weekly community lunches on the Green to collect names of unhoused folks who might want to join U-ACT. I asked U-ACT leaders to mark down who they knew on the list, so we could do outreach in a more personal way. When the list came back to me, about half the names were marked with “KP”. No one else had marked more than one or two. Keith was fighting for himself and his friends, and even for people he didn’t get along with, but he knew their rights are not being respected.

 

Others have spoken or will speak about some of the specific issues and actions that Keith fought for. I won’t go into detail about those, though I admired Keith’s commitment and passion in all of them. I wanted to close by remembering the day that Keith was evicted from the spot he had been staying for two years outside what Keith called “the art gallery” on Crown Street. He called me and a few other U-ACT folks when the property manager from the Ninth Square office across the street told him he had to leave, then called the cops instead of talking to Keith. When I arrived, Evan from DESK was there and Keith was upset. The property manager had taken several photos of him, and he was standing across the street waiting for the cops to arrive. When I tried to take photos of him, he ducked behind cars and slinked into his office. In spite of the seriousness of his situation and losing his home, Keith was in activist mode, demanding that the property manager come out and talk to him and own up to what he was doing to a fellow human being who had a right to a safe place to live. When the cops arrived, Keith continued to defend his right to a place to live, while Evan and I also defended that right. When it was clear that Keith would have to leave or be arrested – let me just pause for a moment to acknowledge how upside down that is: Keith would be arrested because someone else called the cops to take away the home of a person who was well-respected by others in the neighborhood – Keith gathered his belongings and began to walk away. I noticed tears in his eyes, which was the one and only time I had seen that in my time of knowing him. He was losing the home that he had relied on for years, and he was being deeply disrespected. I felt so badly for my friend in that moment, and I was glad he had all of us with him – Evan and me at that moment and all of U-ACT when we returned a few days later to protest in front of the Ninth Square office, with Keith taking a lead role on the bullhorn.

 

 

I cannot forget that Keith’s fight, and the fight of all U-ACT members, comes from deeply personal and emotional reasons to stay involved in the struggle. Keith kept that in the front of his approach to activism, and he knew his voice was among the very most important voices in our fight for justice. He lifted his voice, and he made it a priority to support other people in doing that too. I will always have deep respect for Keith’s courage to do that on a regular basis.

 

We miss you, Keith, and we always will. Your light and your warmth were far too great for death to extinguish. We will carry your light and your message with us always, and we will continue to fight with your name and your memory in our hearts. Much love to you, brother.

Video taken outside a Ninth Square Apartments, where U-ACT members demonstrated following Keith’s eviction from a space outside a building where he had been sleeping (with support from local residents) for two years.

Congratulations Gianna and Shannon!

Congratulations Gianna and Shannon!

BSW interns at DESK join staff and our volunteer corps in the operations of the weekly Olive Street Pantry program, the Evening Meals program, and the 266 State Street Drop-in & Resource Center. 

Interns undergo numerous iterative trainings, including: de-escalation and crisis management; harm reduction and naloxone administration; area resource and program referrals; child, elderly, and disability-based mandatory abuse reporting; CPR; Connecticut Foodshare civil rights training; as well as many others, depending upon availability and tasks completed. BSW Interns also use weekly supervision time to reflect upon client relations, ethical service provision, therapeutic engagement and intervention, relating theoretical frameworks to real-life situations, and other matters.

We have interns join us from many college programs in Greater New Haven including the Yale Divinity School, Yale School of Public Health, and Southern’s Social Work Program. Here at DESK, we are training the next generation of case managers, social workers, and nonprofit staff, by imparting DESK’s values of client-centered, trauma-informed approaches and a harm reduction philosophy.  We hope to ensure that these best practices are instilled in homelessness services and food assistance for a generation to come. 

Our interns are getting hands-on training on how to employ an empathetic approach with clients in a humanizing, dignifying and respectful manner. They are also getting concrete, task-oriented training in areas such as how to effectively work with a range of partnering agencies to work through a cumbersome network of social services and realize a higher success rate in client outcomes.

Shannon from the SCSU 2023 BSW program describes her experience: “From the minute I stepped into DESK, I knew that I found the right internship. I learned more than I could have ever hoped to learn and was left with the knowledge that many of the other students in my class didn’t get. I left knowing I had made an impact even in the smallest ways. DESK was and will always be an important part of my journey as a social worker, activist, and human rights advocate.”

Interns at DESK are more than students; they are literal lifesavers. As DESK’s Executive Director explained earlier this year, “back in early December, Shannon, and one of our Drop-in Center staff, Aisha, had just gotten off their shift and were heading toward the train station when they discovered a client of ours laid out on the sidewalk in the midst of an apparent opioid overdose. The two of them sprang into action. Just as they had been trained, they assessed the situation, called 911, and grabbed their Narcan kit. For those who don’t know, Narcan, or naloxone, is a powerful antidote that reverses an opioid overdose in process. So that night, long before emergency medical personnel arrived, Shannon administered Narcan in the form of a nasal spray and saved this individual’s life.”  We could not be prouder of our interns and the skills they deploy in such emergency situations.

Interested in interning at DESK? Please have your student advisor contact us at (203) 624-6426 or email info@deskct.org, for more information.

Strategic Planning Retreat

Strategic Planning Retreat

This past weekend, DESK hosted its annual Strategic Planning Retreat.  Board members, staff, volunteers, and other stakeholders came together to revisit our mission, examine our impact, and determine a path forward for future services and programming.

This year, our leadership focused on the next phase of our dinner program, as we struggle to respond to an increase in food insecurity and hunger in New Haven.  Do we go back to big, indoor, community dinners, like we had pre-pandemic?  Do we stick with the popular grab-and-go model we adopted in 2020?  Do we merge our Drop-in Center program with the dinner program?  Do we explore new avenues and new partnerships for meeting the need?

These are big questions!  And they certainly can’t be answered in just a six-hour retreat on a weekend.  Instead, the group used this time to brainstorm possibilities and begin mapping the strategy to fill in our knowledge-gaps over the next six to eight months.  With the proper resources and information, our Board will have the tools to make an informed decision on how best to serve our community.

So in case you were wondering, this is what responsible governance looks like!

Huge shout out to Southern Connecticut State University and the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement for offering up their beautiful new space in the Health and Human Services Building — thank you!

Provide Some Winter Warmth

Provide Some Winter Warmth

They say it’s best to avoid politics and religion in polite conversation.  But here’s another thorny topic that threatens to divide us:  Winterdo you love it or hate it?

At DESK, our opinion of winter has swung back and forth over the years.  Not too long ago, we really looked forward to winter as our quietest months.  It’s counterintuitive when you’re in the business of basic needs, but, at one time, we saw fewer Guests at dinner in the winter because there were fewer people living on the streets: seasonal shelter beds would open every November, and unsheltered homelessness in New Haven would decrease for a couple of months.  Fewer people on the streets meant fewer people at DESK.

But all that’s changed.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the numbers of unhoused individuals on the streets increase and the number of shelter beds decrease—a mismatch of supply and demand.  To respond to this need, DESK has been called upon repeatedly in recent years to step up and do more.

And we’ve responded.  On a blustery night almost a year ago, DESK did something that, in our 35-year history, we had never done before: we didn’t close after dinner.  Instead, we stayed open until the next morning to offer a safe place—a literal refuge—for people with nowhere else to turn.

Last winter, we stayed open overnight 47 more times.  This winter, we’re taking it even further.  On November 28, we began using our new Drop-in & Resource Center on State Street as a seven-night-per-week, overnight warming center.  And we’ll keep this up for 140 nights, straight into mid-April: a critical, life-saving refuge for people with nowhere to go.

DESK may be known primarily for food assistance, but those we serve will tell you that we’re so much more than a “soup kitchen.”  Whatever our people need—food, clothing, toiletries, overnight refuge, medical care, blankets, coats, case management, or just someone to talk to—that is what we offer.  Food is a good starting point, but it’s not the only reason we open our hearts to the most vulnerable in our community.  As we often joke around here: we don’t serve food; we serve people!

And as for winter, it’s a bitter-sweet opportunity for DESK to do what we do best: connect with those who are most in need.  We’re looking forward to the day when we can enjoy our quiet winters again, where people come to us not because they have to, as a life-saving measure, but because they want to, as a way to find and build community.  Until then, help us ensure that no one gets left out in the cold.

Join me today by giving online at deskct.org/winterwarmth

And thank you.

Olive Street Pantry

Olive Street Pantry

Community has always been our key to success.  In the past two-and-a-half years, COVID has made that clearer than ever.  Not a day goes by at DESK when I’m not on the phone with one of our dozens of partners: businesses, schools, faith-based organizations, funding agencies, and—these days especially—other social service providers like DESK.

A strong community can meet the challenge of any crisis, whether it’s a global pandemic or our neighbors forced to live on the streets.  That’s why we’ve forged a new partnership with our longtime friends at Loaves & Fishes.

I’m telling you all this because you should know that when you support our work, you’re not only supporting DESK; you’re supporting a community of providers.

Building a Community to Last

When it comes to helping people, New Haven is a great place to work collaboratively.  In 2019, DESK became one of the founding organizations of the Greater New Haven Coordinated Food Assistance Network, or CFAN, a collaboration of more than 60 members and two dozen food pantries, soup kitchens, and other food assistance providers.  I’ve had the honor of serving as one of the co-chairs since that time.  CFAN has been instrumental throughout the pandemic in getting food out to underserved communities, coordinating “summer gap” meals for students in the New Haven Public Schools, and offering technical assistance and trainings to newer pantries just starting out.

DESK also works shoulder-to-shoulder with homelessness service providers through the Greater New Haven Regional Alliance to End Homelessness and the Coordinated Access Network (CAN).  These groups bring together dozens of partners on a daily basis to coordinate street outreach, shelter, medical and psychiatric care, supportive housing, and financial stabilization.  DESK’s new Drop-in & Resource Center plays a critical role as part of this system, offering a front door for those who are unhoused.

Designing the Olive Street Pantry

For many years, DESK has worked closely with Loaves & Fishes, a food pantry based out of the Church of St. Paul & St. James at the corner of Chapel and Olive St.  Like DESK, the staff and volunteers at Loaves & Fishes believe in the importance of dignity and a client-centered approach to helping people access nutritious food.  And, like DESK, they have pushed the limits and expanded their impact in recent years.  With only two blocks between them and our new Drop-in & Resource Center on State Street, a partnership felt natural.

This summer, after months of preparations, we moved DESK’s Wednesday pantry to Loaves & Fishes’ building, blending some of our staff and volunteers and providing more coordinated services than ever before.  With that, the Olive Street Pantry was born!  The response from our “shoppers” has been very positive so far: less confusion, easier access, better experience.  And that’s what it’s all about.

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At DESK, we’re not afraid to be bold, and we’re not resistant to change.  Whether it’s launching new programs, forging new partnerships, or defining what it means to be more than a “soup kitchen,” DESK takes a modern, progressive, community-based approach.  We build as big a tent as possible, and welcome as many as we can to dwell within it.

Your support today will help build a bigger tent by enabling a community to ensure basic, lifesaving needs and provide critical resources that will move individuals and families beyond homelessness and poverty.

Support your community by giving online at deskct.org/community.

And thank you for being a partner in our community!