Long-Awaited Change in the West River Neighborhood

by Frank Panzarella, former board member of West River Neighborhood Services Corporation

For decades, West River residents of New Haven have worked to reconnect the neighborhood cut in half by the misguided urban development nightmare on N. Frontage Road [since renamed MLK Blvd.] and Legion Avenue that attempted to run a major highway through their backyards.

Members of the West River Self Help Investment Program (WRSHIP) created an opportunity to invest in their own neighborhood. Combined with a non-profit development group, the NHP Foundation, they are finally building 56 apartment units, with a community center, coffee shop, bakery, interior parking, a playground and a community gazebo.

These units also sit next to the New Haven United Nations International Peace Garden, created in 2011. This development will bring sorely needed affordable housing to the West River neighborhood.

“The project represents the first new housing to be constructed on a vast stretch of land in New Haven that has been vacant for over four decades,” according to Anthony Dawson, President of WRSHIP and a native of New Haven. It is also a major step for the inclusion of New Haven’s African American community in major economic endeavors. Jerry and Joyce Poole have also been integral leaders working for years to help make this program a reality along with many West River residents.

Named after a well-known leader in the community who championed New Haven’s homeless population and people with AIDS, the complex will be known as the Rev. Curtis M. Cofield II Estates.

The New Haven Independent covered the recent ground-breaking of the development.

You can read about it here: newhavenindependent.org/article/curtts_cofield_estates

Zoners OK Rosette Mini-Shelters

by Nora Grace-Flood, NH Independent, March 13, 2024

(Read the full article here: www.newhavenindependent.org/article/unhoused_get_relief_from_zoning)

Six backyard emergency shelters built without city approval won zoning relief. …The Rosette Village Collective, a crew of individuals experiencing homelessness and the volunteers helping to house them, made their case during the latest online meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals to legitimize
the six one-room shelters erected last fall … at 203 Rosette St., which first opened up to individuals in need of a place to pitch their tents after the city bulldozed a homeless encampment on Ella Grasso Boulevard last spring and left unhoused individuals unable or uninterested in finding regulated shelter spaces without a place to go. …

While Amistad House is working to pass state legislation that would create zoning pathways for emergency housing, they are, in the meantime, asking to live as an exception to stringent building code rules to let ten otherwise unhoused New Haveners remain in their so-called “tiny homes.” In order to do that, Amistad House requested retroactive zoning relief from the board. …

The application was approved with four conditions: First, only two individuals can reside in each structure at any time. Second, any potential resident is expected to be a direct family member of the first. In addition, no more than the six structures currently on site are allowed to serve as residences. All shelter occupants must maintain access to shared facilities inside Amistad House, including the first floor bathroom and kitchen. And lastly, an easement must be in place for structures that extend beyond the property lines of Rosette Street if Amistad House is sold down the line. …

The application was approved following extensive support from Hill community leaders, next-door neighbors of Amistad House, and testimony from those living in the shelters themselves. …

While the situation might be understood as neighbors doing a favor for Amistad House and those living behind it, those living in the Hill who spoke Tuesday pressed the reality that Amistad is doing a favor for the neighborhood at large. Teachers Union President and Hill resident Leslie Blatteau agreed: “They’re doing the work that community needs to do. They are showing us how it’s done.” …

Mark Colville, co-owner of Amistad House alongside his wife, Luz Catarineau, said: “I would ask the zoning committee to step aside and let this thing go. You need do nothing else but leave it in our hands.”

New Haven’s Tiny Home Community Gets Heat and Electricity 

by Abigail Brone, Connecticut Public Radio
January 18, 2024.

A community of tiny homes created to house homeless residents in New Haven now have electricity and heat after months of back-and-forth with the city.

Rosette Neighborhood Village, a community of six “tiny homes” in the backyard of a private residence owned by Mark and Luz Colville, was constructed in October.

For the last four months, Rosette residents and their advocates worked with the city of New Haven to bring the units up to code and get electricity connected. The electricity and heat were recently turned on.

Electricity was approved by city building and fire department officials Saturday, and connected Monday. The development followed an in-person meeting with New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker and his team on Jan. 12.

Jacob Miller, son-in-law of the Colvilles, said they’re optimistic about the community’s upcoming Jan. 30, Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.

“Doesn’t seem like the type of thing that we’re gonna get a lot of pushback on when again, ultimately, what we’re providing is a privately-funded social service that’s filling a vacuum in a city that doesn’t have nearly the amount of resources to serve this community, ” Miller said….

The tiny homes are under a 180-day temporary permit, allowing them to remain standing. However, the structures are required to be disassembled when the permit expires.

Elicker declined to specify what repercussions Rosette Village residents and owners may face if the buildings aren’t removed by the deadline….

Read the full article at: https://www.ctpublic.org/news/2024-01-18/new-havens-tiny-home-community-gets-heat-and-electricityfbclid=IwAR0oda0Mpta1fhbdGJMO4tiW9_7CA0XzyGOQIySFM9ckXyBA_ayyIUWOe_M.

Trespassing Charges Nolled Against New Haven Homeless Activist Mark Colville

by Mark Zaretsky, New Haven Register, April 14, 2023

Most people would be happy to walk out of court with the charges against them nolled, a precursor to dismissal. But Mark Colville, an activist for unhoused people who was charged with trespassing last month when the city cleared and then dismantled the “Tent City” encampment along the  West River next to the Ella T. Grasso Boulevard soccer field, seemed Thursday as if he felt deprived.

He did, after all, say at the time of his March 16 arrest that his goal was essentially to put the city on trial for the way it treats people without permanent homes in New Haven. And ultimately, that’s what he did — although perhaps not in the way he initially planned.

That’s because Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney David J. Strollo, after meeting with Colville and his backup attorney, Patricia Kane, in Strollo’s Superior Court office, told Senior Judge Frank A. Iannotti that while Colville “has every right to challenge” the city’s policies and the charges against him,”the state does not feel it’s the best use of its resources to pursue this case.”…

Colville got to have his say before leaving the courtroom. He told the judge and the prosecutor, “I object to the dismissal of these charges, first of all, because I feel it’s an evasion” of the need to address the city’s behavior.

Colville, who has a home in the Hill section where he allows unhoused people to sleep in tents in his backyard, said his arrest — which came after he pitched a tent at the former encampment the day before the city came to clear it — was not an act of protest but “an act of defense.”

“The laws with which they carried out that action” were “completely disconnected from human rights,” said Colville, who had five former Tent City residents living in the backyard of his Amistad Catholic Worker Home in the Hill in the days immediately after the city moved in. “The city of New Haven continues to carry out a policy of the criminalization of homelessness.”

[Read the article in its entirety at www.nhregister.com/news/article/charges-nolled-new-haven-homeless-activist-mark-17895670.php?src=nhrhpdesecp]

Tent City Bulldozed

by Nora Grace-Flood and Paul Bass, New Haven Independent, March 16, 2023

Police swarmed onto the tent city off the Boulevard early Thursday morning [March 16] to clear the holdout campers and bulldoze the site — and make sure the press and public couldn’t watch what they were doing.

The operation began at 7 a.m.

Dozens of officers arrived to carry out an eviction order for homeless people who have been living in an encampment near a soccer field off Ella Grasso Boulevard. The city ordered the campers last week to vacate after inspectors said they found public health violations including cooking taking place inside flammable tents and human waste on the premises….

Campers had until Wednesday [March 15] to leave. Most did.

Three of the encampment’s ongoing residents remained. They left without incident. Officers brought them
McGriddles for breakfast, and members of the city’s crisis intervention team, COMPASS, worked with them to find new lodgings. The United Way is also providing storage spaces for two of the individuals kicked out of the encampment Thursday.

An advocate for the homeless, Mark Colville, was also on site. He set up a camp to protest the order to vacate. He refused to leave Thursday morning. Police arrested him for trespassing and removed him forcibly from the scene on a stretcher before taking him to 1 Union Ave.

One of the three last residents, Barry Lawson, said COMPASS had arranged for him to stay at the Youth Continuum shelter, where he was headed.

A second, Paul C, said ​“I have no idea what’s next,” as he departed. “I just had a traumatic experience. They gave me 20 minutes to clear out. All my emotions are mixed and f*cked right now.”
He had noticed a La-Z-Boy recliner abandoned on the side of Columbus Avenue a few days ago. ​“I wonder what it would be like to get drunk and pass out in that chair,” he said, weighing his options for where to sleep that night.

The third, who was named Victor, was already gone by the time reporters arrived. Around 8:30 a.m., the public works department brought in trucks and bulldozers to begin dismantling the camp.

Former tent city resident Jacquedah, who declined to give her last name, rushed to the entryway of the encampment just as she noticed a bulldozer hauling her tent off the ground. “No!” she screamed, as cops rushed to hold her back from nearing the area. ​“That was my first home here!”

The Elicker administration took unusual steps to ensure the press would not see how the operation unfolded. Beginning Wednesday, it declined to state when they planned to carry out the eviction order. They declined requests for advance notice, claiming they didn’t know the planned time. By the time most reporters got word of the operation Thursday morning, it was well underway. Heavy machinery was on site to clear the tents and debris.

[Article can be read in its entirety at newhavenindependent.org/article/tent_city_bulldozed. Mark Colville is due in court March 24.]

New Haven Homeless People, Advocates Push for More Resources

by Mark Zaretsky, New Haven Register, Dec. 17, 2022

If there’s one thing Tyrell Jackson and his neighbors, who live in a “tent city” along the West River off Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, could use this winter, it’s some sort of power source such as a generator.

If they had one, they could run heaters, charge their phones or even get an electric stove or hot pot to cook with or a refrigerator to keep food from spoiling.

“There are not enough resources,” said Jackson, 28, who grew up in West Haven and is a member of U-ACT, which stands for the Unhoused Activists Community Team.

“The biggest thing that I’ve been pushing for is some source of power,” he said before the start of a press conference that the Greater New Haven Regional Alliance to End Homelessness held at the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen’s Drop-in & Resource Center at 266 State St. Jackson called that “the main thing I need.”

U-ACT member Arthur Taylor would like to see some proper toilets on the New Haven Green, for one thing, “not like these out-houses they have down here,” said Taylor, 70, a city native and James Hillhouse High School graduate who currently is on a waiting list for senior housing.

The purpose of the press conference, led by DESK Executive Director Steve Werlin and attended by Mayor Justin Elicker, State Reps. Robyn Porter and Patricia Dillon, both D-New Haven, and representatives of most of the organizations that provide homelessness services in the city, was to highlight the need for more resources — and a consistent source of funding.

Werlin asked for the $5 million the state set aside for emergency homeless services this winter to be made permanent, so providers don’t have to “cobble together” funds every year to keep people alive, warm and safe. “The solution to homelessness is housing — deeply affordable housing,” Werlin said.
But while all providers and their allies in city and state government and the private sector work toward that, “we cannot forget about the immediate” needs, he said. “Home-lessness is dangerous all during the year,” but its challenges become particularly acute in winter, he said.

Read more at www.nhregister.com/news/article/New-Haven-homeless-advocates-push-for-resources-17659171.php

Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) Stands with Afghan Families

Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) is currently welcoming evacuated Afghan families and are ready on 24-hour notice to receive as many as needed.

Please help us:

Donate to defray costs of essentials upon arrival emergent costs.  Irisct.org/donate.

Join a local community group in towns around the state and work with IRIS to welcome families in your community. irisct.org/communitycosponsorship.

Collect backpacks, school supplies, winter coats and waterproof winter boots. Our storage is limited at this moment. Please email [email protected].

News from the Green Party of Connecticut

Ronna Stuller, secretary, Green Party of CT

As a unity of local chapters throughout the state, the Green Party of Connecticut is committed to the Four Pillars of all Green Parties worldwide: grassroots democracy, social justice, non-violence and ecological wisdom. In order to empower the political voice of the people – not corporate interests or their lobbyists – Green Party candidates accept contributions only from individuals, not from PACs. This year’s election we are running over a dozen candidates in municipal elections all across Connecticut.

Justin Paglino MD, Ph.D., of Guilford, was our 2020 nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in the third Congressional District. He has continued, on the local and national front, to advocate for a nonprofit healthcare system that serves everyone, as well as reforms that would strengthen our democracy, repair our environment, and invest in a peaceful future.

We invite readers to learn more about our organization at www.ctgreenparty.org or www.facebook.com/GreenPartyofConnecticut.  We also invite readers to consider changing their voter registration to Green Party, and/or to consider visiting your local Green Party of Connecticut chapter to learn more and get involved. You will be most welcome.

Statement by Justin Paglino

I am running again for the U.S. House of Representatives, for the seat currently held by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, and I anticipate that my name will be on the ballot in November 2022. I intend to once again seek the nomination of the Green Party of Connecticut.

The factors that spurred my initial decision to run for this office are unchanged. Our national healthcare system still makes healthcare unaffordable for vast swaths of Americans. Unlike Rep. DeLauro, I support single-payer Medicare for All, the reform that would save $500 billion dollars and 70,000 lives each year. Recently New Haven passed a resolution declaring its support for Medicare for All, yet our representative in Congress is still not a cosponsor.

Our national energy policy is still completely inadequate to address the severe threat of climate change. Unlike Rep. DeLauro, I support the carbon tax and dividend policy we need to finally put a real limiting force on our untamed carbon emissions, while making the transition to sustainable energy affordable for all. Our nation still grotesquely over-spends on the military budget, and the City of New Haven recently passed a resolution declaring this to be the case. Unlike Rep. DeLauro, who voted against a 10% cut to the Pentagon budget, I support a 50% budget cut, with just transition programs in place to keep defense industry employees employed. We are in more need of windmill blades at this time than helicopter blades, but the skill sets to make these do overlap significantly.

Our nation’s runaway economic inequality continues to hurt. Although I give credit to Rep. DeLauro for fighting for the child tax credit, I would go further and call for a Federal Jobs guarantee and Universal Basic Income, as more progressive members of Congress have already done and Rep. DeLauro has not.

Our nation’s politics are deeply corrupted by corporate interests. Unlike Rep. DeLauro I accept no special interest money, only funding from individuals. Our two-party system discourages voters from voting their values, but I encourage voters to do exactly that, because if you don’t vote for something, you’ll never get it. Unlike Rep. DeLauro, I support Ranked Choice Voting, a reform that eliminates the spoiler effect and thus will allow multiparty democracy to flourish.

Please visit my website at justin4all.org to sign up for my newsletter, or to contribute to this campaign for healthcare, climate, peace, economic justice, and uncorrupted multi-party democracy.

Thank you.

Temporary Rental Housing Assistance Program: UniteCT Information

by Tebben Lopez, Neighborhood Housing Services

As the COVID-19 pandemic systematically shut down businesses and caused many people to lose their jobs, the consequence of mass eviction loomed larger each month.

“With the severity of the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Temporary Rental Housing Assistance Program (TRHAP), administered by the Department of Housing (DOH), was a critically needed tool to address a catastrophic need,” Managing Director of the HomeOwnership Center, Bridgette Russell, explained, “Renters facing job loss and furloughs were suddenly unable to pay their rent, and TRHAP, along with the Governor’s mandated eviction moratorium, provided a short-term solution to quell an impending eviction tsunami.”

With the assistance of selected administrators and NHS of New Haven’s HomeOwnership Center, the state got to work distributing the funds. The Governor first set aside $10 million that grew in short order to $40 million by the end of the temporary assistance program in December.

The HOC began to work with individuals assigned to their department to bring them up to $4,000 in order to help them with back rent and forward-facing rent. In total, NHS assisted 448 families with over $1,415,000 in assistance. “After COVID-19 shut down my work, I was in a panic,” Monika C. shared. The program came at the perfect time, helping with her rent, and she was grateful to be accepted. “A huge thank you to NHS of New Haven and the Department of Housing for helping me through the process!”

“Helping tenants and landlords submit applications for the Temporary Rental Housing Assistance Program was deeply meaningful and often very moving work,” HOC Coordinator, Robin Ladouceur, reflected. “The range of applicants with whom I worked was broad – from the older man who lost his job and could not find a new one in a job market that privileges youth; to the single mom of two who received a cancer diagnosis in the midst of the pandemic; to a young new mother faced with raising her daughter alone; to all the countless families touched by COVID-19.”

The prolonged nature of the pandemic means that the scale of need for rental assistance was and continues to be staggering. “At least 3-5 times per week I receive inquiries from individuals who passed through the TRHAP program asking if there are other ways to receive assistance, Robin said. “I am grateful to be able to say that a new State of Connecticut Department of Housing Rental Assistance Program will be commencing in March and everyone who went through TRHAP may be eligible to apply. More help is on the way!”

Tebben Lopez, Communications Specialist
(203) 562-0598 x224, 333 Sherman Ave. New Haven
www.nhsofnewhaven.org
@NHSofNewHaven

Help the Progressive Community. Become an Active Part of the PAR Newsletter Team!

To Our Readers:

The Progressive Action Roundtable is looking for someone who knows how to write clearly and has a good command of spelling and grammar. This person must also be interested in talking to local organizers about their groups and plans, and writing a couple of short articles (of approximately 300 words) for the monthly PAR newsletter. A small stipend will be available.

In addition, we would like more of our readers to become involved in working on the newsletter. We want to expand our Planning Committee and Production Team. Enhancement of our Facebook presence is also needed. Would you like to gather articles about local activities? Can you help with graphics? Are you a good proofreader?

If you’re interested in helping the PAR newsletter provide news about New Haven-area activism, please send an e-mail to [email protected] and let us know what you’re able to do to keep PAR promoting the work of the many wonderful progressive organizations in the New Haven area.

Thank you!

Help Make Thanksgiving Special This Year

Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen

For almost 30 years, the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen has participated in a community-wide effort to deliver meals to people in need on Thanksgiving morning. Although the COVID-19 pandemic is limiting the scale of this annual program, we’re determined to get at least 500 meals out to those most in need on Thanksgiving Day, focusing on people experiencing homelessness and staying in warming centers, hotels, and shelters. In addition, we will once again be providing plenty of Thanksgiving foods at our weekly pantry on the Wednesday before the holiday.

Here’s how YOU can help:

Donate Food!

Help us make Thanksgiving special for those in need in your community by donating food from our Thanksgiving Shopping List.

  • Frozen turkeys (Nov. 15 drop-off only)
  • Stuffing (boxed)
  • Green beans (canned)
  • Cranberry sauce (canned)
  • Yams (canned)
  • Corn (canned)
  • Broth (turkey, chicken, or vegetable)
  • Butter (1-lb. boxes)
  • Reusable shopping bags

Please drop off frozen turkeys on Sunday, Nov. 15, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. All other items can be dropped off during DESK’s regular receiving hours (Sun. – Thu., 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.) through Sunday, Nov. 22. Drop-off Location: 311 Temple Street.

Questions? Call us at (203) 624-6426, ext. 6137, or email [email protected].

Donate Money!

Your financial support will ensure that DESK can serve those in need on Thanksgiving and all year-round! Show your support and we’ll be able to purchase supplies to keep everyone safe and protected during these difficult times. Contact us with any questions at (203) 624-6426, ext. 8557.

Donate Your Time! Volunteer!

While we won’t need all 250+ volunteers who typically take part in Thanksgiving for All, we still need some folks to make this happen! If you’re interested in helping out onsite or delivering meals, email us at [email protected], and we’ll be in touch in the weeks leading up to let you know how you can help.

Thanksgiving for All is a community partnership of Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Interfaith Volunteer Care Givers, Yale Hospitality, and Chabaso Bakery.

How You Can Help At-Risk People in Our Community

by Mark Colville, Amistad Catholic Worker

Friends,

I reach out today with an urgent call to come together as advocates, caregivers, organizers, activists and allies, in response to the ongoing unmet needs of some of the most at-risk people in the New Haven community. As the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded, many concerned people in the area have intensified our work with people experiencing homelessness, and from that perspective, we’ve seen the city and some of its institutions take bold and proactive steps. At the same time, there is a growing fear that those efforts are falling short in terms of providing safe spaces for significant numbers of people who still lack the wherewithal to follow the statewide directive to shelter in place.

The latest initiative has been to move all of the people who were using the city’s homeless shelters into hotel rooms, a move that was completed within the past three weeks. Thanks to a concerted raising of voices, we have now seen the city commit to expanding that initiative to include all individuals who identify as experiencing homelessness, regardless of whether or not they typically use the shelter system. This is a very positive development, and many of us have been working hard to get those folks signed up for the rooms as they’re made available.

The problem we face now is that the ”shelter model” of service delivery is simply being transposed onto these hotels. This includes supervision, security measures, invasions of privacy and disciplinary regimens which are in fact the reason why so many people refuse to stay in shelters in the first place. Regardless of how anyone feels about such refusals, this project of moving everyone from the street into hotel rooms will not be sufficient, at least in its current form, to accommodate everyone- particularly, for example, those who are mentally ill and/or active drug users.

In response, the Amistad Catholic Worker is joining an effort already underway to erect a tent city, in an as-yet undetermined open space somewhere relatively close to the city center. This is being organized collectively and with a fair degree of urgency. It will integrate the requirements of social distancing and sheltering in place, but the rules and regulations will be developed and agreed upon by those dwelling in that space. Thus the responsibility for its operation in a safe and sanitary way, maintaining the peace and respecting the privacy of its residents, will also be assumed collectively.

We are now looking for camping supplies, especially tents, sleeping bags, warm blankets and tarps. If you can donate any of these or other items, please contact me: (203) 645-5417 (call or text); [email protected]. For anyone interested in taking an active role in getting the project off the ground, I’m happy to discuss that as well.

Stay safe everyone. Gratefully,

Mark Colville

In Memoriam, Anne Hall Higgins, 1921-2019

by Lesley Higgins-Biddle

Anne Higgins died on October 21, 2019, at her home in North Haven, Connecticut. Known for her commitment to social justice and racial equity, Anne was active in greater New Haven as a founding leader of People Against Injustice (PAI), with a special concern for prison reform and changes to Connecticut’s drug policy. She was active in New Haven/León Sister City Project after traveling to Nicaragua in her 60s and in the United Church of Christ state conference Peace and Social Concerns committee, which led her to be arrested for protests against nuclear weapons in Groton at the submarine base and in Washington, D.C. As an ordained minister, Anne believed unequivocally in “talking the talk and walking the walk.”

Anne was born in Bridgeport where her grandfather had been a progressive minister at Park Street Congregational Church on the city’s East Side. She attended a new, John Dewey-based elementary school that encouraged young girls to play sports, explore their intellectual gifts, and challenge social norms. She graduated from Smith College (1943) with a major in art and then became one of the first women to graduate from Yale Divinity School with a Master of Divinity, subsequently becoming an ordained Congregational minister. At Yale Anne met the love of her life, Arthur Higgins, with whom she co-pastored small rural churches in upstate New York, Colorado and Maine, at a time when the profession was almost entirely dominated by men.

Anne and Arthur moved back to Connecticut to serve parishes in Chester and Wilton, and raise their four children. While in Wilton they became very active in civil rights, with Arthur attending the March on Washington and Anne becoming active in SNCC and CORE chapters in nearby Norwalk. Anne’s critique of the American power structure was a major inspiration for her art and she created many paintings that expressed both oppression and hope, often at the same time.

Throughout her life, Anne remained indomitably committed, both aesthetically and ethically, to a life well lived and that ‘spoke truth to power.’ From her friend Paula Diehl: “Her last years of ministry took the form of programming for elders in affordable housing. She always tried to increase residents’ world-view and help them to better tolerate and understand those who were not like them.”

Anne is sorely missed by her sons, Bart and Gerry, and her daughters, Lesley and Ethel, who are pictured here with her at an exhibition of her paintings at the New Haven Friends Meeting in 2018. Anne’s friends from PAI, the Nicaraguan Prayer Group, and the Friends Meeting, are grateful for having known her. The sparkle in her eyes will be missed by everyone who knew her.

The New Haven Debt Map: How can we reduce the burden now?

by Annie Harper, CMHC/PRCH Financial Health Project

The New Haven Debt Map is learning from New Haven residents about their debt burden and working to collectively develop local policy reforms to reduce that burden.

People are struggling with student loans, car loans and credit card debt. Many people are behind on rent and bills, or have unpaid taxes, fines, and tickets. Close to 50% of New Haven residents have delinquent debt; rates are much higher in neighborhoods of color than in white neighborhoods. People with debts in collections may have their wages, bank accounts or tax refunds attached. More than 3,000 New Haven households are behind on their UI bills. Many owe property taxes, parking tickets, or can’t afford registration. Their cars may be towed, with retrieval fees too high for some to recover their vehicles.

People also owe mortgage arrears, medical debt, online/TV retail installment loans, tax refund advances, online payday loans, rent-to-own stores, pawnshops, bank overdrafts, child support, IRS taxes, library fines, Medicaid/DOC liens, bail bonds, loans from friends and family, credit from neighbor-hood stores, loans from loan sharks……the list goes on.

The consequences of debt go beyond a person’s finances. People with debt and arrears are more than twice as likely than others to have mental and physical health problems.

We need to know more about how debt affects New Haven families. Is debt a problem? What types of debt burden people most? What can we do in the city to reduce the burden? Can we help people save to avoid going into debt in the first place, and help them repair and build their credit? What policy reforms could help, such as municipal rules around property taxes and parking tickets, or utility bills and disconnections? Could employers help workers avoid and better manage debt?

We need to hear from experts by lived experience when it comes to debt so that we fully understand the situation, and to work together to push for policy reforms that will make a difference. If you are interested in knowing more, please contact Annie Harper, at [email protected] or (203) 295-4143.
Annie Harper is Project Director of the Financial Health Project of CMHC/PRCH (CT Mental Health Center and Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health).

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