They say it’s best to avoid politics and religion in polite conversation. But here’s another thorny topic that threatens to divide us: Winter—do 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.