We do a lot at NLHHC! I don’t think that many people actually know exactly how much is done for the homeless population at this establishment. People know that we operate a homeless shelter and that it is somewhere in New London. Beyond this, there is confusion as to what, and where HHC is.
There is some confusion between the Community Meals Center and us. Often people want to volunteer at a soup kitchen and call us. I usually direct these generous persons to Montauk Avenue. Some aren’t really sure where we are. HHC has two sites, the daytime hospitality center at 19 Jay Street (All Souls) and the nighttime emergency shelter at 76 Federal Street (St. James). The generous people of New London also want to make donations that should really go to our the Salvation Army or The Community Meals Center. While it is wonderful to know that the people of the town have us in their hearts and on their minds, we don’t really need clothing. HHC’s thrift store, Homeward Bound Treasures, currently has a surplus of clothing. Nor do we need perishable food. Perishable items would be better donated to the Community Meals Center.
However, we do take non-perishables in case of an emergency. We do have ongoing needs which, if you email me, I’d be happy to send you a list of commonly sought after items. And if you aren’t sure about what to donate, just ask! I don’t mean to be negative here: people are generous and are just trying to help. That’s why if you call or email I will try to find out whom, if not us, could use your assistance or support.
So what does HHC do then? Well, first and foremost it is an emergency shelter. At St. James Church there are currently 50 beds for nightly use. In addition, there are overflow arrangements which include a number of cots and, if nothing else, the emergency shelter at St. James offers a warm place to come in from the elements on a cold winter’s night. We do our best to provide a safe place for anyone who is experiencing homelessness, whether temporary or chronic.
What we try to offer, in addition to a safe place out of the elements, is a hospitable atmosphere and to limit the institutional feel that institutions such as NLHHC are prone to. Part of this effort is to offer an evening snack to our guests, which is provided by some very generous volunteers. We are also trying to get volunteers to come in and interact with the guests in a positive way, whether that is to help them find a job or to simply talk to them. You’d be surprised at the lives and potential of many of our guests! In addition, there are rules at this shelter. For one thing, there is no violence. Also, no abusive language of any sort. This is supposed to be a safe place. We provide a somewhat stable environment: any returning guest at the shelter must arrive by 9:30 (or have a good excuse like work, hospitalization or recovery program) and lights out is at 10:00. This allows for some constancy in ones schedule and life.
HHC is also a daytime hospitality center. Beyond providing a place of respite from the elements during the day, the staff at the New London Homeless Hospitality Center assist the guests who come into the Center in acquiring needed services such as disability, social security, assistance in finding a job and permanent and sustainable housing, and recovering vital documents, including birth certificates, social security cards, and other items needed to find gainful employment or services. The goal at the daytime center is to help everyone at the shelter out of homelessness and to keep those who are approaching homelessness off the streets and in a stable position.
What does this mean for the community? For starters, there is an immediate economic impact: persons who would be on the street are off them and in a safe environment. People who might cause problems are in a non-disruptive environment. Person who might end up in the ER on a cold night are kept warm and healthy. HHC saves the city of New London tax dollars every day by simply treating those who enter as humans that are on hard times.
There is a quantifiable impact from our shelter as well: Within one year, from July 2009 to June 2010, the nighttime shelter offered 16,792 nights of shelter, the daytime center logged 20,935 visits, and a whole host of individuals were offered assistance in receiving services ranging from intensive mental health treatment to social security benefits. Further, with the opening of the Veterans House, eight homeless veterans are housed; giving them a chance to rise above their situation!
The New London Homeless Hospitality Center helps people out of homelessness and into a stable and productive environment. People find housing, jobs, and income through its efforts. People find their way out of debilitating conditions such as alcoholism or drug abuse through the efforts of the staff and the generosity of the community. These last may take some time, but in the end lives are changed and the community is a better place!