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.”
Read the complete article at https://www.newhavenindependent.org/article/guilford_congregational_church_helps_amistad_house_say_yes_in_my_backyard.