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Rell Offers State Building For No Freeze Shelter

Jeffrey B. Cohen

December 07, 2009

Gov. M. Jodi Rell has offered one floor of a state-owned, nearly century-old former church for use this winter as a "no freeze" shelter for homeless men.

Rell said the state offered the former Second Church of Christ on Lafayette Street to the city at no cost and that all the city has to do is sign off on the agreement. The city would cover all costs of operating the shelter.

"We have a building, we've got some space, they need it, and they have to pay for everything," said Donna Tommelleo, Rell's spokeswoman. "The governor thought this was an appropriate and compassionate use of the building."

Just where to temporarily house the city's "no freeze" shelter -- an overnight facility open at night during the year's coldest months -- has been subject of heating argument among city and downtown residents, property owners, and business leaders.

The Salvation Army told the city in late September that it would no longer run its shelter on Washington Street, which it had operated for nine years.

Since then, the city has been trying to find another suitable location for the shelter that houses men in winter months when they could risk dying in the cold. Officials have said a church at Lewis and Gold streets near Bushnell Park appeared to be the best solution on short notice. The shelter typically opens on Dec. 1 and stays open every night through the winter.

But downtown residents and business leaders from the Business Improvement District have strenuously objected, saying that downtown isn't the right place for a homeless shelter.

Tommelleo said the building she has offered has heat, plumbing and everything else a shelter needs, except showers. She said the church is surrounded by state buildings, including State Supreme Court, the State Office Building on Capitol Avenue, and others.

David Panagore, the city's chief operating officer, said a working group of people trying to solve the shelter issue reached out to the state about the Lafayette Street building.

"The state was very cooperative, very generous and very engaged," Panagore said. "We're still working through our due diligence."

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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