Zoners OK Rosette Mini-Shelters

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

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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….

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Suburban Fundraisers Sing For Hill’s Tiny Homes

by Lisa Reisman, New Haven Independent, Nov. 20, 2023

(Updated with Mayor Elicker’s response) Sixty tiny-home supporters at a church in North Branford lifted their voices in song. It was about electricity and housing affordability, and aimed at New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker. The occasion was ​“Home for the Holidays,” a brunch fundraiser held on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Zion Episcopal Church in North Branford to raise support for ongoing expenses toward sustaining New Haven’s Rosette Neighborhood Village, with its six tiny homes that house people who had been living in tents.

The event raised $10,000, according to organizer Colleen Shaddox, member of the Rosette Village Collective, and author of ​“Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending US Poverty.” …
Electricity is ​“the last piece of the puzzle” for the six shelters on Rosette Street, said Jacob Miller, a real estate professional and the son-in-law of Mark Colville, co-leader of the Amistad Catholic Worker House. The houses ​“basically meet all the baseline provisions for most building and zoning codes,” he said. … Beyond that, ​“we have the funds and a licensed electrician who’s ready to do that work with-in 24 hours. We just need the city to issue a permit to allow UI to turn the electricity on.”

“The stumbling block,” he said, is ​“a 100-year-old zoning code that doesn’t contemplate tiny houses.” That means Rosette Village is constrained ​“to follow the same drawn-out process as someone who’s redeveloping a 100-unit apartment building, leasing it out, and then selling it for $20 million,” he said, referring to the apparently stalled redevelopment of an apartment complex on Congress and Davenport Avenues.

Update: In a follow-up interview with the Independent Monday afternoon, Elicker said that city staff had a ​“productive meeting” with representatives from the Rosette Village group last week in his administration’s ongoing efforts to try to get these shelters into compliance with local zoning and state building codes. He also criticized the ​“hypocrisy” of residents of an affluent suburb criticizing New Haven for not doing enough to support affordable housing, when a third of New Haven’s housing stock is affordable while only 2.2 percent of North Branford’s is. …

Mark Colville called out the mayor for impeding the process. “His argument, that it isn’t fair to the other homeowners in the immediate area, doesn’t make sense,” he said.​“All our neighbors have not only been informed, but consenting of this from the beginning and many have become active participants.” Regarding the electricity issue, ​“City Hall is telling us that these encampments are unsafe and unsanitary,” he said.​“It’s essentially the same argument they’re using for not turning the electricity in our backyard in the tiny homes. Because they don’t have electricity, they’re not safe, so we won’t turn on the electricity.” …

“I think all the time of the expression ​‘love your neighbor as yourself,’” said Lucy LaRocca, Zion Episcopal’s assistant rector. ​“It doesn’t say neighbor just as the person next door or down the street.We need to love our neighbors wherever they are.” …

Thomas Breen contributed to this report.

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Volunteers Lay Foundations for Six Tiny Homes to Serve Unhoused New Haveners

Maggie Grether & Natasha Khazzam, Yale Daily News, Oct. 10, 2023

Leaders of the Rosette Neighborhood Village Collective are building the tiny homes to provide additional privacy and stability for residents.

Volunteers broke ground last Saturday at the Rosette Neighborhood Village Collective, clearing wheelbarrows of damp earth to lay the foundations for six tiny homes that will be operational by Thanksgiving.

The tiny homes will provide shelter for between eight and 12 unhoused people currently living in tents at 203 Rosette St., located in activists Mark Colville and Luz Catarineau’s backyard….

To clear space for constructions, the Collective moved tents previously erected in Colville and Catarineau’s backyard, which have been there since 2022, to a community garden directly next to the house. Volunteers from various organizations including Amistad Catholic and Benicasa Community gathered Sunday to construct the foundations….

Colville said he has been in communication with the City Planning Department and is currently working with the city to secure permits for the tiny homes. Colville said the city has expressed support for the tiny homes, which he sees as “the first real substantive cooperation that the city has expressed towards this movement.”…

Colville started helping set up makeshift tent cities in 2014. In 2020, during the outbreak of the pandemic, Colville helped form the West River encampment.

[The article can be read in its entirety at]

City Housing Plight Brought to the ‘Burbs

by Lisa Reisman, May 15, 2023, New Haven Independent

It might seem incongruous for a wealthy shoreline suburban community to pull out all the stops for a radical Catholic homelessness rights activist from the Hill.

Not at all, said Mark Colville, leader of the Amistad Catholic Worker House, as roughly 100 attendees enjoyed vegetable terrine … at a ​“Breaking Bread” fundraiser in the basement of Guilford First Congregational Church.

“Homelessness is a result of a lot of things, a lot of break-down of relationships in families, and that’s not specific to any one group or social class,” Colville said at Saturday’s event. …

Mark Coville addressing the audience. photo: Lisa Reisman

The occasion, Colville said, marked ​“the first in a series of planned public events organized by a coalition of people and organizations in the New Haven area trying to do something substantive to decriminalize homelessness in the city of New Haven and the state of Connecticut.”  …

He said Saturday’s fundraiser was part of an ongoing campaign that started in 2013 when he read a United Nations report on which U.S. cities comply with the 1948 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 2013 report detailed municipal laws across the country, he said, ​“making it a criminal act to take refuge on public land when the state fails to provide you with public housing, and those include New Haven.”

That means, he said, ​“if you’re homeless in New Haven tonight, and you’re not able to access a shelter bed — and, as far as I know, there are literally hundreds who can’t — then anywhere you take refuge, you’re subject to either arrest or some kind of sanction.”

The report was an eye-opener. ​“We came to realize that no matter how many people that we took in, the people outside the door were still considered criminals.” …

Then, in early 2020, came the pandemic, shelters being closed by the city, and an Amistad House worker talking with people who had taken to sleeping in the side stairwells around City Hall.

“From those conversations, we convinced about six of those people to take a chance on a plan we had to offer hospitality on public lands, to set up a tent city, and to do it in a public way,” Colville said.

The larger problem is a shelter system that ​“mimics the criminal justice system,” he said. ​“When you walk into a shelter after you get patted down, you have to give up your privacy, your agency, autonomy, your property, all the things you give up when you go to jail.”

He compared the human right to shelter to health care. ​“If you don’t have health care, you’re going to go outside the system, whether it’s a faith healer, herbal medicine, or a drug not approved by the FDA,” he said.

Criminalizing homelessness is tantamount to ​“making it a crime to make herbal tea to cure yourself,” he said.

The new strategy, to set up tiny houses on the property as Rosette Neighborhood Village, ​“a model tent city in our own backyard,” has as its ultimate goal ​“to change the policy away from criminalization so that people can have legal status as neighbors and not criminals.”

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How You Can Help At-Risk People in Our Community

by Mark Colville, Amistad Catholic Worker


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