Two years ago, a handful of vocal residents and stakeholders more or less evicted the homeless population from Downtown. Center Church had offered part of its property for use as a no-freeze shelter, as demand for housing exceeded spaces available in existing year-round shelters. A compromise was reached when a location on Lafayette Street, outside of Downtown, was determined as another possibility.
The message was very clear: this population was not welcomed by all in the business community, and certainly not by all Downtown dwellers. It was also clear whose voices mattered, and whose did not.
In the thick of that controversy, and since then, people living with homelessness and their supporters have begun to speak up.
In January 2011, the newspaper Beat of the Street, hit the streets. Though a few of those directly involved expected it to fizzle out after a few issues, it still appears to be going strong a year later. The newspaper includes poetry, narratives, resource lists, and articles about issues related to homelessness, written by those who are experiencing or have experienced it, as well as by advocates for those in need of shelter.
On December 21st, in the sanctuary of the Charter Oak Cultural Center, there will be a memorial service beginning around 12:45 for those in the homeless community who have passed away in the last year. Rabbi Donna Berman will be saying a few words; a poem for the occasion will be read by Justin Sweetwater. There will be musical performances by Margaux Hayes and Richard McGhee.
Today, in the middle of December, homeless individuals could be seen sleeping in Bushnell Park. This does not take into account those who select more hidden locations, like under the bridges, to rest. For many, homelessness is something they can avoid confronting.
To make this issue visible, on December 21st, after the indoor service, there will be a procession from Charter Oak Cultural Center to the Ancient Burying Ground, which is located next to Center Church; some individuals sleep in this cemetery, which is located in the heart of Downtown, across from the Travelers tower and next to the Gold Building. Here, Rev. Paulo Gustavo Franša will say a blessing; a friend of two of the deceased individuals will give the eulogy.
After a period of mourning and remembrance, event organizers will be calling on the community to take more steps toward addressing the issue of homelessness in Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
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