Help In Place For Homeless Around Hartford As Temperature Drops
Hartford Courant, Dec. 15, 2016
With temperatures plummeting, Johnny Rosado just wants to make sure he can get warm.
A family disagreement left him without a place to live last weekend, so Rosado called 211, a service that connects people with vital services, including shelters.
"They pretty much told me there's currently no openings in shelters available right now," said Rosado, a 28-year-old East Hartford native. At least not the traditional shelters open year-round. But they pointed him to a Hartford no-freeze shelter – an emergency option that kicks in during the cold weather months from December through March.
Leasing space in the old Immaculate Conception Church on Park Street from ImmaCare Inc., the Hartford No-Freeze Project has 50 such "no-freeze" beds available, Managing Director Nate Fox said. Rosado said he's been sleeping in one of them.
Forecasters predict temperatures to dip to the single digits Thursday night into Friday, and gusting winds will make it feel as cold as minus 15 degrees – so cold that the governor is enacting a cold-weather protocol to make sure the most vulnerable have a warm place to stay.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's office said the protocol was in place for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, coordinating the efforts of state agencies, 211, and the network of shelters.
"As we experience our first bitterly cold weather of the winter season, I am activating our severe cold weather protocol to initiate essential services that will help protect our most vulnerable," Malloy said. "Anyone in need of shelter is urged to call 211 to find the nearest available locations."
The Hartford No-Freeze Project has recently opened a welcome center in the basement of Center Church on Gold Street in Hartford. While 211 directs people there, Fox said, he and staff and volunteers can get people into local shelters with space or the no-freeze shelter.
Fox said the welcome center removes the barrier for those who might have access to phone.
On Thursday evening alone, Fox said, he expects as many as 100 people to come to the welcome center hoping to find a place to stay overnight.
Governor acts when temperature drops back to top
When temperatures drop to levels that prompt the governor to enact the protocol, Fox said, the No-Freeze Project makes an additional 25 beds available at the Park Street shelter and has contingencies in place to expand access if needed.
"We want to make sure we cover people in the worst [weather]," Fox said.
Working off a waiting list, shelters contact the warming center looking for the people to fill vacancies. "That way, none of the beds go unused overnight, because that would be just unfortunate," Fox said.
If all the shelter beds are full and the no-freeze beds then fill up, two churches in the city are ready to open up as warming centers, Fox said.
Organizations in the city aren't the only groups that have been getting ready to for these bouts of intense cold. Officials with 211 say they've been preparing for months.
"We will make sure that anyone who reaches out to seek shelter ... are found a place to go during the cold weather," said Tanya Barrett, Senior Vice President for 211 health and human services.
The protocol enacted by Malloy integrates the efforts of 211 with those of the state departments of Emergency Services and Public Protection, Social Services, Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Housing.
Officials said the department of mental health will send out teams to help find anyone at risk and help them. Hartford police said they, too, would have patrols on hand to do the same.