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CT DOT evicts around 20 people from homeless encampment in New Haven, citing safety concerns

The cleanup continued on Tuesday after the DOT got rid of the encampment off of Lamberton St. on Monday.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Around 20 people were asked to leave a homeless encampment in New Haven due to safety concerns. The encampment used to sit just off Ella T. Grasso Boulevard, near the corner of Lamberton St.

On Monday, the State Department of Transportation, which owns the land, evicted the people who were living under the bridge in tents.

“The structure itself means something to them. This is what they felt safe in,” said Rico Jones, who works and lives at the Amistad Catholic Worker. “It’s so real to see someone lose everything they got or 90% of it.”

Jones was there for the demolition. He’s been helping out at the Amistad for decades. The leaders of the organization, on Rosette Street, have opened their backyard to anyone who needs a place to pitch their tent. 

“You need a shirt, we’ll give you a shirt. You’re hungry, we’ll feed you. You need a place to stay? We’ll try,” Jones said.

And the Amistad folks tried hard on Monday as they visited the Lamberton encampment to offer help.

“We were there as Amistad, trying to help somebody,” Jones said.

And they have. Around 10 people chose to move into the Amistad’s backyard, while the others already living there had to downsize or chose to leave. Those who went to Rossette St. did not want to go to a local shelter, which had been offered to them. Jones said shelters feel like jails. 

“You’re patted down when you get in. Your stuff is taken away from you. You gotta go to bed when they say go to bed. You gotta get up when they say get up. And you gotta get out when they say get out,” Jones said. 

This is something a spokesperson for the DOT said they did not want to do on Monday but felt like they had to for safety reasons. 

“About six months ago, someone who was living there was struck and killed by a train that was coming by as they were trying to cross those tracks,” said Kafi Rouse, Director of Communication for the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

That’s when Rouse and the state learned about the encampment. Since then, they’ve been waiting for shelter space to open up to place the people living there. 

“It’s a tragedy. Any time someone loses a life is a tragedy. And so, we just want to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Rouse said. 

However, those who called the encampment home, or any outdoor spot in the city for that matter, are hoping for a more permanent solution.

“It doesn’t matter where I go. I have my own power source. I have my own TV. And I have my own tent. But, it’s not allowed,” Jones said. “What anybody’s asking for is, if you don’t want us to be seen, give us a space that we can govern.”

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On Monday during the cleanup, local advocacy and intervention groups were there to help the residents. The Elm City COMPASS team was there, along with others. 

The city is also working on several housing projects to offer more temporary homes for the homeless, including the potential purchase of a hotel to add more beds into the mix. 

As for the magnitude of homelessness in New Haven? The Columbus House alone has a running waitlist of 82 individuals and 22 families.

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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