“Sober” Houses Need to Be Regulated and Held Accountable

Holly Hackett, Community Advocate, Member of Coalition for People

My life has been impacted immensely by substance use disorder. Has yours? The statistics say yes, that 1 in 3 people know someone with substance use disorder, a chronic and debilitating brain condition. There are approximately 2.1 million people (and growing) in the U.S. suffering from this condition but only 1 in 9 seek treatment, usually due to the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction. These untreated traumas or mental health issues that lead to the person self-medicating can also lead to other health issues, criminal activity and unfortunately, deaths of despair. Every 11 minutes someone dies from an overdose and half are in private homes. In doing my research, I’ve concluded that a lot of these deaths at private homes have occurred in so-called “sober” houses.

My love Tom passed away just 20 days shy of his 39th birthday of liver failure after being in a “sober” house for about 3-4 months. I’m trying to bring awareness to these illegitimate, unsafe, fly-by-night houses that anyone can start, where MANY people across the country struggling with substance use disorder have died.

The cost to live in these houses can range from $700 to $10,000 a month and may not include food, cable TV or linens. In Connecticut there is Public Act No 18-171, but by using simple verbiage these houses are absolved and no one seems to want to enforce said act.

I’m also discouraged that these managers and/or owners of these “sober” houses aren’t held criminally liable if someone dies of an overdose at the house or perhaps drinks and drives and gets into an accident. I’d like to gather everyone together who has been affected by this disorder to stand together, work together, and find a way to let our local, state and federal legislators know these houses are UNACCEPTABLE and MORE needs to be done. We need to protect the vulnerable communities of people with mental health and substance use disorders. The process of Tom dying was long, and at times extremely physically and emotionally painful for him, but his parents suffered through emotional turmoil that cannot even be put into words!

I am hoping PAR readers will want to join me in working on this. Please contact me via email at hollyh1133@gmail.com.

Happy May Day! Continue the Struggle for Justice!

by the PAR Planning Committee

Since the nationwide strike for the 8-hour workday in 1886, the first of May has become a historic day for the struggles of working people, and for over a hundred years May 1 has been celebrated as International Workers’ Day. Locally, in 1970, the May Day protests on the New Haven Green demanded freedom for Bobby Seale, justice for the Black Panthers, and the end of the Vietnam War. Starting in 1987 and continuing for thirty years on the Green, the annual May Day celebration each year brought together dozens of organizations to promote their work for labor rights, peace, human rights, and economic rights to the broader New Haven community. And since 2006, city-wide marches for immigrants’ rights are held on May 1. Peace, racism, police brutality, union struggles, fair wages, anti-war, immigration, a safe environment, criminal justice issues, labor history, welfare rights organizing, the right to healthcare — these are some of the struggles and issues in the celebration of international solidarity.

April was a month full of upsurge. From April 11-21, Stop & Shop workers from Connecticut, Rhode Island and

Massachusetts (31,000 workers) were on strike. The union considers the new contract a victory, preserving healthcare and retirement benefits and providing wage increases. The next strike in Connecticut will be unionized workers in nursing homes. They are scheduled to strike on May 1.

For days there have been massive protests and marches in New Haven and Hamden condemning the thoroughly unjustified Hamden and Yale police shooting in New Haven of two African-Americans in their early twenties on April 16. Thankfully, Stephanie Washington is recovering from her bullet wounds, and Paul Witherspoon was not hit. Video from the police body cameras has not yet been released. As of this writing, people will gather at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 6 at the Hamden Town Hall for the Legislative Council Meeting. We urge our readers to join in the many rallies for justice around these and other issues and be inspired by the many people at the forefront of these struggles for their lives and their livelihoods.

Help Push New Health Care Choices This Session!

by Protect Our Care Connecticut

From Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut:

The race is on to offer Connecticut small businesses and individuals new quality health insurance coverage they can afford. Will you help us get over the finish line?

Act Now! Call Governor Lamont at 800-406-1527 and let him know that you need him to support small businesses and individuals seeking better health insurance choices. Ask him to support House Bill 7267/SB 134. Make the call now!

BACKGROUND: Groundbreaking legislation to open up new health insurance choices, built upon the health coverage state employees and legislators receive, could pass in the next six weeks. Small businesses are the major source of job growth in our state, employing over 700,000 people. They struggle to afford health coverage for their workers, facing double-digit increases year after year. They deserve better options for their employees, not health plans that only pay for care after people spend thousands of dollars on co-pays and deductibles.

Individuals who buy insurance on their own have fewer and worse insurance choices. The high deductibles they face are a barrier to using their coverage to address worrying symptoms or to help them stay healthy. A new insurance choice built upon the state plan, sometimes called a “public option,” would mean small businesses and individuals could benefit from the negotiating power of the largest health plan in the state.

Save the Date – Wed. May 1 – Health Care Action Day Join us at the state Capitol to tell legislators – It’s Time to Act on Health Care!

10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Legislative Office Building, 300 Capitol Ave., Hartford. We will start with an issues briefing (location to be determined) and then meet with legislators. We are working in partnership with the Women’s Health Lobby Day. Issues briefing will also include updates on major women’s health issues.

Protect Our Care CT priority bills/issues:

*Protect Medicaid/HUSKY from cuts
*Establish public health insurance options for small businesses/nonprofits and individuals buying on the private market (HB 7267; SB 134)
*Bring down the price of prescription drugs (HB 7174).

See Resources page of www.protectourcarect.org for information on POCCT bills.

Is Your PAR Subscription About to Run Out?

by PAR Planning Committee

The Progressive Action Roundtable newsletter publishes from September through June. Subscriptions from many of our readers will expire with the June issue.

We hope you enjoy your subscription and value the PAR newsletter as a community resource. To see if your subscription is due for renewal, please look at your address label. If “201906” is printed on the label to the right of your name, your subscription ends next month. Please send in $13 for 10 issues (Sept. 2019-June 2020) so that you can continue to read about what local organizations are doing and you can submit articles about your own organization.

The Progressive Action Roundtable was started in January 1993. After several months, this community Newsletter became the main activity of PAR, giving New Haven area organizations an opportunity for networking and for advertising their activities.

We hope to hear from you.

Liberty Community Services at New Haven Libraries

Liberty Community Services offers one-on-one consulta-tions at NHFPLs for those with basic needs (jobs, food, shelter, and health and wellness issues).
Ives Main Library, 133 Elm Street
* Mondays to Fridays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
* Saturdays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Fair Haven Branch Library, 182 Grand Avenue
* Thursdays, 5-7 p.m. * Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Wilson Branch Library, 303 Washington Avenue
* Tuesdays, 5-7 p.m *Saturdays, April 13, 27, 10 a.m.-1p.m.

Coalition For People Annual Meeting, April 17

The annual meeting of the Greater New Haven Coalition For People will be on Wednesday, April 17, from 4:45-7:30 p.m. in the Program Room, lower level of the New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm St., New Haven.

Coalition For People through the years

Coalition For People led the successful campaign to have the downtown bus stops restored around the New Haven Green; demanded the hospitals adhere to the Hill-Burton Act and provide free health care to people who could not afford it; promoted universal, comprehensive single-payer health care; organized in neighborhoods to curb drug dealing and violence; won guarantees of jobs for New Haven residents at projects and businesses receiving city assistance; and worked with many other organizations in the New Haven area on issues of justice, racism, welfare rights, peace and the environment.

This past year we have taken on such issues as New Haven’s lack of affordable housing, the rights of the homeless, “hospital-dumping” of patients to the street who have no where to go after they are discharged from the hospital, lack of disability access to public places, and development of a program to provide resources for people with behavioral issues who would otherwise be put through the court system for creating a disturbance or other minor infractions or misdemeanors.

We are honored that our guest speaker will be Rev. Bonita Grubbs, Executive Director of Christian Community Action. Music will be performed by Flint Ladder. Our meeting and light dinner are free.
We invite you to become a member of Coalition For People and join our board. Annual dues are $5. Only members are eligible to vote during the business portion of the meeting.

RSVP is necessary. Please call (203) 468-2541, or e-mail coalitionforpeople@hotmail.com.

Why Run for Mayor? by Wendy Hamilton

Wendy Hamilton, NH homeless advocate and mayoral candidate

PAR readers may remember the article Wendy wrote in the Feb. 2018 issue of PAR about homelessness and Mark Cochran. Mark died shortly after Yale New Haven Hospital discharged him in winter with no place to go. Wendy has filed the paperwork to run for mayor and has asked if we would share her concerns with our readers.

One day I just felt fed up with the chaos, the lies, the crazy spending, the near bankruptcy, the greed, the lack of compassion, the apathy…

Justin [Elicker] and Liam [Brennan] were sitting on the fence. I decided to commit to the research and the signature-collecting because I want to be heard at the Democratic primary debates coming this fall.

After making a list of city problems, I saw they fit into four categories–Housing, Budget, Safety, and Transportation.

Housing is no longer affordable for the masses without job security and bank loans for the working poor. The cost of living increases during years of flatline wages and a widening wealth gap. Developers and slumlords are getting all the breaks. Homelessness exists in every town and city and is growing despite what mass media says. Foreclosures and evictions are everyday occurrences.

The Budget is a runaway train growing by $100 million plus with our current mayor in office. We are in debt and near bankruptcy. The biggest contribution comes from our property taxes. Biggest expenditures are police, fire, and school systems, all of which need revamping with fair and intelligent contracts and pensions. We also have a huge yearly debt payoff. Yale, on 50% of the town land, only pays about 1/33 of the yearly take. The state offers a little better money but not enough.

Safety, which includes physical elements like crime, fire, pollution of air and water and climate change, is also a desirable feeling for the public to have and many don’t feel safe here for many reasons. Our police and firefighters require contracts to make them feel safe and appreciated. City residents require a civilian review board that can address their problems by affecting real change. We need to stop treating the homeless, the addicted, and sex workers (mostly homeless women) like criminals. We need year-round hazardous waste collection and cleaner parks that operate for the public benefit, not just the lucky few. We need to get housing quickly for those living on the street.  We all need affordable medical care.

Transportation is a city theme. We have trains, buses, major highways, bike and pedestrian trails, and a harbor. We are part of East Coast Metro which includes several huge cities.  The age of automobiles is over, but city hall hasn’t figured it out yet. 25% of us have asthma. Our air is just plain dirty. Bike travel is on the rise fortunately (I am 70 and own 2). Bus routes and schedules need to be examined and improved here. Many here can’t afford a bike or a car or a cab. Cab service is pricey and undependable here. A $40 million boathouse that took years to build on its own pier lies empty and unavailable to us even though our taxes paid for it — a colossal waste.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

City Homeless Demand Bill Of Rights, Thomas Breen, New Haven Independent

Thomas Breen, New Haven Independent

Verna spent five years sleeping on the streets after she lost her manufacturing job.

Now living in her own Fair Haven apartment, she’s still haunted by the constant stress, anxiety, and humiliation she felt whenever city police asked her to move from a bench or a sidewalk grate or a stretch of grass downtown where she had managed to fall asleep.

On Monday afternoon, Verna added er voice and her story to a broader call by local homelessness advocates seeking to codify a city “bill of rights” for New Haveners without a home.

Read the full article at http://www.nhindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/homeless_rights

Two News Reports on Disability Access

by Joseph A. Luciano, disability rights activist

1) Seymour shows hostility against downtown senior-disabled residents

All 38 residents of Seymour’s downtown Columbus Street may have gasped in dismay when they realized their street had been re-paved and white-striped—but without the handicapped parking spaces that had been there when they moved in. Instead, a glut of new signs warns of no parking on their side of the street and two-hour parking on the other.

One Columbus Street resident, Amanda (not her real name) goes for dialysis three times a week. Exhausted afterwards, she just wants again to park close to her apartment and go in for a nap to recover. Now that there are no handicapped spaces on Columbus—where 37 other senior-disabled per-sons live—she drives around looking for a parking space. Most always there is none: customers of the growing antiques and gift shop businesses in downtown have taken all of them.

So, Amanda resorts to parking in the municipal parking lot, which is on the other side of the block she lives on. Town Hall know-it-alls blithely think that lot is convenient for her. But they aren’t pushing a walker over pot holes, cracked pavement, and then over fake-brick bumps as they trudge around Tony’s Diner to get home. For her, it’s a long, laborious walk. It’s a hardship.

There is no justifiable reason for having a fire lane nearly the entire length of Columbus Street instead of parking spaces. There is also no reason for not having handicapped parking in the downtown district. The selectmen, P&Z, economic development and engineering have simply adopted a generally hostile attitude towards seniors and senior housing downtown. It may be that town leaders feel Amanda has little to offer the community when, in fact, over 18% of the population (50 million Americans) have disabilities and are living more independently and participating more actively in their communities. Each is a potential customer.

2) Want to be marooned somewhere? Try “Cross Service Area Transit”!

This writer, an ADA certified passenger, warns about using wheelchair bus transport called “Cross Service Area Transit” (CSAT). For it to work without being marooned depends on precise timing and coordination worthy of a circus trapeze act. Recently I was marooned if not abandoned at the transfer station established by Connecticut ADA service providers.

A year ago without public or rider input—and without safeguards—CONNDOT invented CSAT. In theory, the first bus company takes you to a transfer station, where a different bus company takes you to the next transfer station. Coordination between bus companies is poor to nonexistent. There is no real-time shared information about locations of buses of different companies that are meeting up at transfer points.

I have just updated the Underground Travel Guide of “Accessible” Places to Visit in New Haven County. Readers will notice that venues and visitor attractions outside of New Haven County will not be reviewed for ADA compliance and accessibility. Because of my location, trips out of New Haven County require CSAT, which I refuse to try again. Readers are welcome to submit their reviews (for ADA compliance/accessibility) of venues and visitor attractions outside of New Haven County. Please send text and photos to DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com. 250-300 word limit. (203) 463-8323.

Center for Disability Rights’ Wheel-A-Thon a Success

by Joseph A. Luciano, Disability Rights Action Group of CT

The Center for Disability Rights of West Haven is celebra-ting another successful Wheel-A-Thon. Over 140 people took part in the Wheel-A-Thon held July 24 at Savin Rock.

Approximately $10,000 was raised for programs and/or services offered by the center. Programs include summer self-empowerment camps and scholarships for high school juniors and seniors with disabilities. Each of the 8 students who successfully completed the camps received $500 scholarships.

CDR is a membership organization of persons with disabilities that operates a Center for Independent Living (CIL). CDR advocates for people with disabilities and their issues on a local, state-wide, and national level. It also provides services to individuals and their families, as well as technical assistance and community education to businesses, government, and members of the community.

CDR offers limited services in the form of information & referral services, nursing facility transition services, augmented communication services, and the Helping Each Other Succeed (HEOS) cross-disability support group to persons living in West Haven, Milford, Orange, Wood-bridge, Madison, Clinton, and Westbrook.

For more information, visit www.wheel-a-thon.org. The Center for Disability Rights can be reached at cdr-ct.org or by phone at (203) 934-7077.

PCMH Plus and Changes to Husky Medical Care: What You Should Know

by Coalition for People

At the June meeting of the Coalition for People, Ellen Andrews of the CT Health Policy Project gave a presentation of some very important changes to HUSKY Health. She also introduced the work of the CT Health Policy Project, whose purpose is to ensure there is affordable healthcare for everyone in the state.

Since 2012 HMOs have not been involved in Connecticut’s Medicaid program. Primary care providers work directly with patients. It saves money and people get more care.

PCMH Plus is a new program; Person-Centered Medical Home Plus or PCMH+ provides person-centered, comprehensive and coordinated care to HUSKY Health members. Advocates are concerned it jeopardizes the progress made since 2012. It will allow medical practices to get back 50% of the money they save the Medicaid program. It incentivizes less care which can be achieved by eliminating duplicate tests and improving care to keep people out of the hospital. Savings can also be generated by denial of needed services, not following through and not referring people to specialists. These practices will save the state money and 50% of the savings will get kicked back to the medical practices. Patients can be “cherry-picked” and patients needing high-cost care can be dumped from their providers’ practice.

Patients have the choice to opt-out of PCMH+ and nothing will change with their current care. In fact, if people do not opt-out of PCMH+, they will lose access to Intensive Care Management, a program to help people with complex conditions. Many people who are covered by HUSKY Health don’t know about this program and what their options are. For more information, check the website at PCMHPlusFacts.org.

The next meeting of the Coalition for People is Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2 p.m. in the community room (lower level) of the Fair Haven LIbrary, 182 Grand Ave. All are welcome to attend.

Reflections on the Past Green Year

by Owen Charles, Shoreline Green Party

A little over a year ago, we obtained official chapter-hood for our Shoreline Green Party. It was a joyous thing, springing forth from a rather unjoyous series of disappointments. Many were dismayed by the weakening of democracy in America, the championing of corporate interests by both major parties, and the 2016 election with its home-grown election fraud.

So we came together to see if the grass was greener on the other side—and it was!—Fertile with ideas and fresh perspectives, and inquisitive minds;— Open to citizen participation, running for office, and a shared and self-determined people’s agenda.—Not your typical political party owned, operated, bought and sold by large corporate interests.

On Feb. 26, 2017, we launched with the aim to “start preparing to run candidates, get involved an important issue and legislation advocacy and upturn the status quo of a troubled political system as an official regional chapter of the Green Party!”

I’ll briefly reflect on what we have done in a year, with pride and congratulations to a smart, vibrant, friendly, hard-working, dedicated, growing Shoreline Green Party team! Many more details can be found on our Facebook @shorelinegreenparty and website shorelinegreenparty.org.

  1. Visibility and Activism: We organized gatherings and protests (net neutrality, immigrants rights, May Day and others), marched in the Guilford Parade. Website, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube videos (check it out at Shoreline Green Party on Youtube).
  2. Inspiration and Solidarity: Our first annual Songs of Solidarity in Oct. 2017 at the Guilford Library was standing room only (70+), amazing performances and sing-alongs with a line-up of incredible local artists (stay tuned for “Second Annual!”). We sponsored a showing of “Requiem for the American Dream” at Guilford Library.
  3. Local Democracy in Action: Organized public support to stop privatization and development of the Academy School in Madison, ban fracking waste in a number of towns, and stop the development of a waste dump in Clinton.

Our first four candidates in 2017, in Clinton and Madison, each had impressive showings with over 1,100 votes. We now have four local candidates for this Nov. 6! with key campaign support and volunteering from dozens of people.

Clinton members have led the way in getting appointed to Town commissions and boards.

If you are interested in these kinds of actions, please join with us in the Shoreline Green Party! We welcome participants from all surrounding areas including New Haven and environs and are working with other local groups and welcome doing that more.

Please reach out to us by joining our Facebook group @shorelinegreenparty or contacting me! Owen Charles owencharles2003@yahoo.com or shorelinegreenparty@gmail.com; phone (203) 421-1094.

Take Part in a Fun Event in West Haven to Support Youth with Disabilities, Tuesday, July 24

by Christopher Zurcher, Center for Disability Rights

The 2018 Center for Disability Rights Wheel-A-Thon – a fundraising and community awareness campaign to benefit the youth programs and activities of CDR and its partners – will take place from 6-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 24, at Savin Rock Conference Center, 5 Rock St., West Haven.

Registration will take place and pizza will be served to registered participants from 6 to 6:45 p.m. The ceremony starts at 6:45 and ends around 7 p.m. when the walk begins. Awards to walkers will be distributed around 7:30 p.m. and there will be live entertainment throughout the event.

Wheel-A-Thon participants can walk, roll in a wheelchair or ride a bicycle along a 1-mile route. Register and participate as an individual or form a team with your family, friends, and co-workers. To register to participate, visit the “Participate” page of the wheel-a-thon.org website.

The money raised during the 2017 Wheel-A-Thon provided Summer Empowerment Camp opportunities to nine high school juniors and seniors and provided five Wheel-A-Thon Scholarships.

Individuals who are not part of a team but who raise at least $25 for young people with disabilities can participate in the CDR Wheel-A-Thon as individuals.

Buy your tickets or make a donation to support CDR’s youth activities here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-cdr-wheel-a-thon-tickets-43038218470.

For more information call CDR at (203) 934-7077. Ask for Sandy or press Extension “10,” and she will return your call as soon as she can. If you prefer email, please send email to info@cdr-ct.org.

Free ‘Underground Travel Guide’ for Persons with Disabilities

by Joseph A. Luciano Sr., Disability Rights Action Group

This guide is currently in PDF format and can be useful to persons with disabilities, especially those using wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, or other mobility devices and seeking education, fun, entertainment, shopping, or dining experiences.

You may be (or you may know) a person who uses mobility devices and wants to “go out” to a mall, shopping center, store, museum, theater, library, or restaurant. You should know whether your destination is accessible – by ADA standards. You may find barriers there. For example, there is no ramp to get over steps at the entrance or the doorway is too narrow. Worse, the restroom is totally inaccessible!

Today – even 28 years after enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act – many public entities and their employees still do not know about their obligation to provide ADA 1990 access and mobility standards. You should not assume your destination has complied with federal law. Incidentally, educational materials including brochures, booklets, guides, and instructional videos about disability rights are free at ADA.gov under “Technical Assistance Publications.”

The Underground Travel Guide also gives advice on how to use the paratransit system. As good as it is, the system has a few quirks and snags you should be aware of. Connecticut has 12 ADA service providers comprised of vans and minibuses equipped with lifts to board and deboard persons using wheelchairs. Go to https://www.ctada.com/ServiceProviders.asp to see the providers serving your community and your destination. To learn how to obtain service click on the provider serving you. (Depending on the destination you may need to ride with more than one provider.)

The providers are:

  1. Greater Hartford Transit District
  2. Greater New Haven Transit District
  3. North-East Transportation Company
  4. Southeast Area Transit District
  5. Valley Transit District
  6. Middletown Transit District
  7. Milford Transit District
  8. Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority
  9. Windham Region Transit District
  10. Housatonic Area Regional Transit District
  11. Norwalk Transit District
  12. 9-Town Transit/Estuary Transit

The travel guide is copyrighted and is provided free here: https://tinyurl.com/2018-travel-guide.

For more information, e-mail DRAGconnecticut@yahoo.com or call (203) 463-8323.

Grammar School Students Who Already Challenge and Change The World

by Frank Panzarella, community activist

The Green Wolves, fourth-grade students at Elm City College Preparatory Elementary School, came up with that name for their own wonderful and imaginative adventure in becoming young activists.

Their teacher, Kurt Zimmermann of their Expeditions class, saw the PAR newsletter on-line and invited us to do a training for young people on things to think about when becoming an activist.

While some were still shy, others were bursting with ideas and questions. They surprised us right off by quoting suggestions from our own notes before we even began.

These kids were very interested in environmental issues and showed us their current great campaign. They raised money to replace all the teachers’ disposable coffee cups with lovely ceramic mugs that had the teachers’ names printed on them, so the teachers would reduce their paper waste.

We were thrilled to meet this group of engaging and endearing students and thank Mr. Zimmermann for the opportunity. We thought PAR readers would be interested in the notes we left the students with.

An Activist Guide List – Questions to Ask Yourself

  • “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
  • “Doing something is better than doing nothing.”
  • “My way is not the only way.”

Passion

  • What are the issues you feel strongly about? What would you like to accomplish or change? What do you need to study and understand?
  • Are there other people you know concerned about these issues? Who can you talk with?

Organize

  • How can you educate people about why your issue is important?
  • What are your short term and long term goals? What would you like to see happen in relation to your cause?
  • Who is it you would like to reach on your cause?
  • Are there people or groups who might be allies in reaching your goals?

Action Plans

  • What kinds of actions are appropriate for your cause?

Educational events

  • Write letters, articles, and petitions.
  • Use social media.

Rallies and demonstrations

  • Picket lines
  • Speak at hearings or local government meetings.

Create a plan to advance your cause and build support

  • Call a meeting to plan your actions if necessary.
  • Figure out a group process.
  • Be aware of your members and their ideas.
  • Promote democracy in action – listen to all and learn to resolve differences.
  • Respect the rights of others to have different views.
  • Struggle for a programmatic unity on issues — in other words, something everyone in your group can agree on to take some action.
  • Have a summation meeting. Meet again after your action to figure out what worked and what didn’t. What do you think could have been better? Decide if you will do something next, and pick a date for another meeting to figure out what it will be.
  • Have fun doing good things for the benefit of everyone.

Pay Attention to the Signs at the Public Library

by Robin Latta – Coalition For People

The Coalition For People was in the habit of meeting once a month in a cozy niche of the New Haven Free Public Library (Ives branch) for decades. One fall day in 2016, however, Mary Johnson, our elderly but forceful organizer/leader, declared that the library’s bathrooms were consistently in atrocious condition and “could we please meet elsewhere?”

Our following meetings were at Mary’s house, and we let the library know why its space was no longer suitable for our meetings. We learned the maintenance of the bathrooms was subcontracted out to a private company. This was the case in other City buildings as well, which angered us as these are jobs that should be done by City union employees.

That was the beginning of the changes to come… Upon further investigation, two members of the CFP team discovered no handicap accessible bathroom on the lower floor, while the potentially mobile metal sign standing in the front of the alcove of the handicap accessible bathroom on the main floor was perennially poised to deter entrance. The sign read “OUT OF ORDER.”

We knew the building was an older building and probably out of date, but we never realized the other “forces” at work. When we asked for an explanation of the sign, we were told that it was put there to avoid “hanky panky” in the bath-room. Upon further investigation, our “Supersleuth” found evidence of a prior handicap accessible bathroom in the women’s bathroom on the second floor that had actually been converted into an “inaccessible” stall.

When City Hall and the library were unresponsive to our pleas for accessibility, we finally made an ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] complaint which has been handled regionally through the Boston office. Currently, it has been placed in the hands of a lawyer who actually lives in Connecticut. Since the library and the City were given 180 days to “clean up its act,” their time was up on March 12, 2018.
We are saying all of this because of the stated excitement of the possibility of new renovations. We are sincerely hoping that everyone will benefit from those renovations, including the most underserved populations. (“I could have built a house by the time it took to fix the bathrooms” … so said one librarian, “and a garage.”)

But signage continues…one way or another. Now a big sign in the vestibule of the front entrance is posted and its reading “disallows” people coming in with more belongings than will fit under their seat. Is this a thinly veiled way of saying the homeless are unwelcome? Maybe instead, the library could (especially with new renovations) actually provide adequate accommodations for belongings.
Further, if the library is intent on making up new signs, maybe it could remind people that they are being surveilled inside the library by inconspicuous surveillance cameras. Even though it may be legally permissible to do so, some of us might feel intruded upon. So, folks…keep your eyes open when you use the New Haven Public Library and watch for the signs….

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