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Vulnerable people in danger due to bitter cold as New Haven Country officials scramble to provide help

Temperatures are quickly dropping, and those without a home are at risk.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — It's going to be an extremely cold couple of days in Connecticut, with temperatures dropping below zero on Saturday night and wind chills as low as -15 to -30. With that in mind, cities and towns are focusing on some of their most vulnerable neighbors: Those without a home. 

"I'm definitely thankful for this place, I mean, being able to get something to eat, and some of the staff are really welcoming where they can help you with what to do next," said Stephen Alexander Lessard, who was visiting the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) on Friday.

DESK is one of four warming shelters New Haven has opened up at expanded hours after the state activated its cold weather protocol. The centers are open for people to get a warm meal, a seat, and a blanket and pillow overnight.

"Oftentimes, it's a breath of relief and really just a moment to gather themselves," said Evan Serio, Program Manager for DESK. 

Serio said their place on State St. is something called a low-barrier drop-in and resource center. 

"Which means that folks can come in off the street, get warm in a temperature-controlled environment, we have coffee, tea and snacks," Serio said. 

During the winter months, Serio said they're usually packed. They have been so far this year, with nearly 450 people joining them for overnight warming center hours since November.

Throughout New Haven, the need for those services has increased over the last few years.

"We had a decline for a while, but now the number of people who are experiencing homelessness has gone up," said Mehul Dalal, Community Services Administrator for the city of New Haven. 

Dalal and his team at city hall have been planning for these dangerous temperatures for days. 

"Reach out to the outreach teams to make sure that whoever they know that is out on the streets, maybe sleeping alone, maybe sleeping an encampment, that they understand that these resources are available to them," Dalal said. 

In the city of Meriden, they've been hard at work doing the same.

"When it's cold, we have the most people in the shelter, we have full capacity right now," said Nichelle Hilton, Program Director at Meriden's New Beginnings Emergency Shelter.

On Friday, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal paid a visit to New Beginnings, highlighting the shelter as a leader in taking care of those suffering from homelessness. During that visit, Blumenthal gave a warning about the dangerous conditions outside, for anyone. 

"We are at a point of maximum peril in bone-chilling, frigid weather. That literally could freeze people to death," Blumenthal said. 

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Meriden's Mayor Kevin Scarpati said they're working with their partners to keep everyone inside this weekend.

"Not only is the shelter playing an important role with the overflow space and accepting more adults and families, but we're also working with area hotels," said Scarpati.

Those taking cover in the emergency shelter say they couldn't appreciate the help more. 

"Today is the second day they're letting me stay inside again so I'm so thankful for that," said Anthony Esposito, who's staying at the shelter. "I thought I was going to get stuck out there during the day and freeze to death, and there's like hardly any place to go."

Anyone looking for a warm place to stay this weekend can call 211 for help or click here. They will direct them to the right and most up-to-date resources. 

All warming centers in New Haven:

Seasonal shelters/ warming centers

Seasonal Shelters and Warming Centers operate from Mid- November thru Mid April.

Name: Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK)
Phone: 475-227-3009
Address: 266 State Street, New Haven, CT
Hours of Operation: Sunday to Friday 6 PM – 7 AM; Saturday 7 PM to 7 AM
Start Date: 11/28/22
Note: Individuals can come in throughout the night. Snacks and beverages served. Building is wheelchair accessible. 

Name: Upon this Rock
Phone: 203-715-9996
Address: 882 Grand Avenue, New Haven, CT
Hours of Operation: 7 days a week, 7 PM – 7 AM
Start Date: 11/22/22
Notes: Midnight Cut-off time for entry. Snacks/Beverages served. Building is NOT wheelchair accessible

Name: 180 Center
Phone: 203-815-7289
Address: 438 East Street, New Haven, CT
Hours of Operation: 7 PM- 7 AM
Start Date: 11/22/22
Notes: 11 PM Cut-off time for entry. Snacks/Beverages served. Building wheelchair accessible.

Name: Varick Memorial
Phone: 203-645-7361
Address: 242 Dixwell, New Haven, CT
Hours of Operation: Sunday- Friday 8 PM – 8 AM, Saturday 7 PM – 7 AM
Start Date: 11/21/22
Notes: Snacks/Beverages served. Building is NOT wheelchair accessible

For more information click here

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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