Danbury’s Homeless Community Deserves Better

Before I advocated for the rights of ALL immigrants in Danbury over twenty years ago, one of my primary concerns in the city centered on the lack of attention local officials paid to the community's homelessness crisis.

By Al Robinson - Hatcityblog.com

Twenty years later, despite several changes in leadership in Danbury, my concerns and frustrations with the lack of seriousness in tackling the homelessness crisis in the state's seventh-largest city remain unchanged.

In December 2005, Mayor Mark Boughton initiated the "Mayor's Taskforce to End Homelessness," which stated the following in its executive summary:

"The number of adults and families facing long-term homelessness is increasing and is expected to double over the next 10 years as hospitals, treatment programs and correctional facilities are unable to find suitable placements for people leaving their systems; as increasing numbers of youth ‘age out’ of foster care and state facilities; as families with multiple challenges reach and exceed time limits on welfare benefits; and as the cost of housing in Connecticut continues to rise.” 

On a given night in January 2005, there were three hundred twenty-one (321) homeless individuals or heads of household counted in Danbury. Teens, senior citizens, veterans, the mentally disabled and others were included in the count. Homeless children (of which there were an additional 69) are not reflected in that number. The 321 counted included 47 families; 8 unaccompanied teens under 18 years of age; 17 young adults between the ages of 18-24 and 249 individuals. 

Recognizing the severity of the problem, working to continually improve the quality of life in Danbury and recognizing the current opportunities to partner with federal, state, local and regional officials to end homelessness, Mayor Mark D. Boughton appointed a multidisciplinary Task Force and charged them with “developing a comprehensive plan to end homelessness in ten years."

Nearly twenty years after the city's homelessness assessment's publication, the crisis response has been woefully inadequate and lacking in the level of care that one should expect from civic leaders and elected local officials.

Since the city's zoning commission succumbed to the hysteria regarding the proposed homeless shelter at the site of the Super 8 Hotel on Lake Avenue, there has been no plan of action to address the needs of the city's most vulnerable population as they endure sweltering heat and a newly installed administration whose only response to the complaints over the lack of air conditioning at the city's newest shelter is a flippant reaction that's utterly devoid of the level of compassion one would expect from an administration that campaigned on a theme of change.

Let’s suppose elected officials walked a day in the shoes of people experiencing homelessness. In that case, they might think twice before suggesting that escaping the heat is a simple walk from the new Elm Street shelter to the library. 

Our homeless community desperately needs less political rhetoric and finger-pointing and a REAL plan of action that doesn't involve the demonization of a segment of our population that deserves to be treated humanely.