Although City Council took its first official action of 2012 last week, Monday evening was its first regular (read: not accompanied by ceremony) meeting.
The public comment session showed two prevailing issues on residents’ and stakeholders’ minds: housing and employment.
John Ferrucci, the Executive Director of South Park Inn, spoke about the needs of those dealing with homelessness. He explained that there is a huge strain on services for the homeless. Last year, over 1400 adults stayed at South Park Inn; the shelter had to turn away well over 3000 requests for shelter beds. Ferrucci said that the homeless outreach team connects with 5-30 individuals each week who are sleeping outdoors, including such locations as on the grounds of City Hall and in Bushnell Park.
Additionally, he said that the shelters are in need of renovations, especially those that were not created for use as shelters initially. Ferrucci said that there is a “need to provide a modicum of decency in our existing facilities.”
While there are emergency no-freeze shelters, when the weather improves, those shelters close, “dumping a significant” number of the homeless out, Ferrucci said. He called this “unconscionable,” “demeaning and destructive.”
Hyacinth Yennie of the Maple Avenue Revitalization Group said that the City needs “a decent plan to address homelessness.” She noted the number of empty buildings and suggested that a few be rehabbed so they could be used for housing.
“The answers,” to the problem of homelessness, Ferrucci said, “are complex and they are not going to be cheap.”
Tied in with homelessness was the concern over the loss of unionized janitors’ jobs at the Courant. No fewer than five residents spoke in favor of the City Council taking some kind of action on the matter, which Real Hartford and other media outlets covered in the past.
Greg Tate of HartBeat Ensemble said he believed the Courant was “in violation of federal law on this issue.”
Councilman Deutsch asked what the government’s role should be regarding the controversial loss of janitors’ jobs, and inquired if the government, when placing ads for job positions, should do so using media outlets other than the Courant.
Renae Reese, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Center for a New Economy, connected the loss of jobs at the Courant to racial disparities in how wealth gets distributed. Of the janitors who recently lost their jobs and are without health care, she said that these families are “vulnerable to losing everything they have if someone gets sick.”
Reese said that the Courant matter “requires bold action” from City government.
A slew of accusations, fired off by one individual, Alyssa Peterson, closed the public comment session. She expressed concerns over apparent conflicts of interest and misuse of City Hall, among other issues. One of her requests was that Councilman DeJesus not provide input on or take part in votes on the Hartford Police Department due to his past experience with it. She also demanded that Marc Dibella stop conducting Hartford Democratic Town Committee business in Councilman Kennedy’s office at City Hall.
The meeting itself lasted under an hour with few surprises.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
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