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State Solves Hartford's Homeless Dilemma For Now

Hartford Courant

December 14, 2009

Hartford and the state haven't always been on the best of terms in recent years, so it was good to see the two governments work together on behalf of homeless people.

The city was scrambling to find a building for a seasonal "no freeze" homeless shelter, to ensure that all homeless people have a warm place to sleep when other shelters are full on freezing cold nights. It was to replace one run for the past nine years by the Salvation Army at the corner of Washington and Jefferson streets.

Center Church offered its annex at Lewis and Gold streets near Bushnell Park. This drew strong opposition from some downtown residents and business people, who felt the location was inappropriate. Here the state intervened. Gov. M. Jodi Rell offered use of the former Second Church of Christ, Scientist, on Lafayette Street.

The building is mostly surrounded by other state buildings and is only a few blocks from the Salvation Army site. City officials opened the shelter on frigid Friday night.

The state's offer should solve the immediate problem, but it is not a long-term solution. The large and lovely 1920s Georgian Revival church building should, as planned, become rehearsal and performance space for the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, as part of an arts district near the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.

The residents of this temporary shelter need permanent housing. No one should be homeless. And Hartford should not have to bear the cost and burden for those in the region who are homeless. Greater Hartford and the state should embrace a plan developed in 2007 by Mayor Eddie Perez's commission to end homelessness to build 2,000 units of supportive housing in the region.

If the effort is under way by next fall, perhaps there will be no need for an overflow shelter next year.

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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