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Shelter Back And Forth

Jeffrey B. Cohen

December 01, 2009

The proposed downtown location of a new "no freeze" shelter for homeless men continues to generate discussion.

Check out emails below between Councilman Larry Deutsch and some city residents -- including Richard Wareing, an attorney who was the head of the Charter Reform Commission.

NOTE: We've decided to take out most email addresses below.

-----Original Message-----

From: Deutsch, Larry

To: Jennifer DiBella ;

Sent: Sat, Nov 28, 2009 2:23 pm

Subject: reply to all for a Downtown Homeless Shelter

To All, from one of your elected Officials:

Some time has passed, including further Courant editorials and reports on homelessness. Nevertheless, I'd like to reply directly to letter-writers (Jennifer and Marc DiBella, Frank Sentner, and Rich Wareing) - in case my Letter to the Editor, 11/20/09 (Courant) was missed.

It began and ended with an invitation and request -- for specific, constructive suggestions and alternatives, including location and (if needed) additional financing -- from those critical of this choice. Otherwise, of course many perceive it as the old NIMBY phenomenon, something no one wants.

In this case "city officials" (primarly in the Administration, as well as providers and myself on Council) have been active in seeking viable alternatives, and Center Church deserves nothing but praise for responding as it did.

In all honesty, I'd welcome specific, workable alternatives, at any time, directed to me and colleagues, if you or others seek them for the future. In other words, please take the ball in your court and return it within bounds. I look forward to your reply.

Larry Deutsch, MD, Hartford City Council


From: wrebwalker@aol.com [mailto:wrebwalker@aol.com]

Sent: Sun 11/29/2009 10:44 AM

To: Deutsch, Larry;

Dr. Deutsch,

Some others in addition to I mentioned in an earlier email:

10. The nursing home on Tower Ave

11. Possibly some capacity on 3580 Main Street

12. Closed up grocery stores such as the Save A Lot on Park Street and the one on New Britain Ave

13. Closed up apartment buildings on Lower Vine Street (former Richard Weaver-Bey Properties)

Rebecca Wareing

1 Gold St. 13E


From: "Deutsch, Larry"

To: wrebwalker@aol.com;

Sent: Tue, December 1, 2009 1:24:43 AM

Subject: Reply and invitation to all for a satisfactory Homeless Shelter


Thanks much for sending this note - certainly a positive step in search of alternatives, as differentiated from merely negative criticism.

I'm particularly appreciative that now a range of city officials (especially in Council, Development Services, Mayor's Office), commercial, and voluntary institutions and individuals are brought together to recognize and collaborate on this problem needing immediate as well as long-term solutions.

Now, each recipient will be able to think about each of your suggestions and rate them or find additional ones. [I tend to consider 3, 4, 9, and 11, while 5, 7, and 12 seem very remote. However, all must pass health and fire inspection, with safe environment and operative utilities. When inquiring, for example, about the closed YMCA on Jewel St. last year, we were informed that it wasn't as simple as asking Northland for the key and going in to turn on lights and water after a period of disuse. It may be similar for the old Clarion Hotel, don't you think?]

Well, as you know, time is short; in fact, I write as the clock has past midnight, making Dec. 1 today for scheduled program opening at Center Church. The burden remains on all of us to work quickly, collaboratively, and generously to find any good, safe option.

Incidentally, coming in the next few days are two scheduled meetings: Council's Homelessness Working Group (Fri. Dec. 4, 9am, Council Chambers), and the regular Committee on Health and Human Services (which I Chair, on Mon. Dec. 7, 5:30 pm, Council Chambers). Needless to say, you and all receiving this e-mail are welcome to attend with constructive suggestions.

Thanks again.

Larry Deutsch, MD, Hartford City Council


-----Original Message-----

From: Richard Wareing [mailto:thenavigatorb1394@yahoo.com]

Sent: Tue 12/1/2009 8:31 AM

To: Deutsch, Larry; wrebwalker@aol.com;

Subject: Re: Reply and invitation to all for a satisfactory Homeless Shelter


While I appreciate the compliment you have paid to my wife, the fact that she - and all the other private citizens - on this email have had to take time from our families, our businesses, and our personal lives, to find a solution for the City that respects all interests is hardly a cause for celebration. Indeed, one might reasonably ask, what exactly do we get for $550 million per year?

As such, I take great offense to the quote attributed to you by Jeff Cohen to the effect that, if I wish to criticize your work, I must offer alternative proposals. Simply put, it is not the job of private citizens to undo the bad work of those government. It is the job of those in government to get it right.

From a substantive perspective, this decision has been defended largely on the basis of necessity; i.e. "the homeless have to go somewhere." But, the necessity of these unfortunates does not execuse what was frankly a slipshod and exclusive process (at least to those of us most likely to suffer from the negative externalities of the decision).

Yesterday, I sat through a long meeting with the Mayor, staff, and various private citizens. Without repeating word for word what was said, I think it was clear, at least to those of us not in government,that Center Chuch was selected because it was the easy choice, not because it was the best choice.

Nor does the necessity of the homeless excuse what appears to have been a deliberate decision by at least some in government to keep this decision shielded from review and criticism by our community until it was literally too late to say or do anything about it. Even if I discount that as the behavior of one individual, and not the the position of the City itself, the fact is that my public servants -- many of whom like to drone on endlessly about "inclusiveness" and "involving stakeholders" -- thought it acceptable to proceed without even informing our community of their decision.

When I was chairman of Charter Revision you scolded me more than once about not providing adequate opportunity for public comment. Yet, I provided more opportunity for public comment in any one meeting than the City has provided throughout this entire process. Given your view of the importance of public participation, how in any way has what has occurred here acceptable?

Regardless of the ultimate disposition of this issue, I and many of my neighbors and fellow business owners, are extremely disappointed in the performace of City government.


Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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