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Rell Offers Lafayette Street Building For Use As Emergency Shelter

JEFFREY B. COHEN

December 08, 2009

HARTFORD - Gov. M. Jodi Rell has offered one floor of a state-owned building for use this winter as a "no freeze" shelter for homeless men.

The state offered use of the former Second Church of Christ, Scientist on Lafayette Street to the city at no cost. All the city has to do is sign off on the agreement. The city would have to cover the cost of operating the shelter in the nearly century-old building.

"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 the subject of heated 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, which 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 Lafayette Street building has heat, plumbing and everything else a shelter needs except showers.

She said the church is surrounded by state buildings, including the State Supreme Court and the State Office Building on Capitol Avenue.

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 Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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