Recently, the Town of Hamden and Hamden Police Department have recognized an increase in homelessness and panhandling. A rising number of panhandlers have been observed in the vicinity of the Hamden Plaza and Hamden Mart, and along the Dixwell corridor.
The Hamden Police Department has partnered with the Hamden Community Development Department and the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center Homeless Healthcare team in an attempt to address these issues. Members of the aforementioned departments have been conducting outreach, on a weekly basis, to those in need of shelter and/or medical services. The Columbus House Outreach and Engagement Team has also assisted in this endeavor.
During the most recent assessment, the Hamden Police Department Neighborhood Initiative Unit interacted with 11 people that were panhandling. The designated team (police, town community development, health care professionals) were successful in placing 2 people in short term housing and 1 person into a detox program. A number of those contacted are suffering from mental health issues. It is steady and deliberate work, and not everyone is receptive to help, but with consistency we are starting to see some success in connecting people to the services they need and getting them off of the street.
The Hamden Police Department and Town of Hamden are committed to treating those experiencing homelessness in our community with dignity and respect. For the past two winters, we have offered an overnight winter warming center. We also work towards preventing homelessness through Community Service’s rental assistance program. We plan on continuing this work and expanding it in the future. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic dislocation have exacerbated already existing housing instability and homelessness challenges. Pending approvals, we hope to fund public service agencies through our CDBG-COVID grant working in the areas of homelessness and eviction prevention. Columbus House has applied for funds for a part-time case worker dedicated to Hamden, and New Haven Legal Aid has applied for funding to assist Hamden residents facing eviction.
Mayor Curt Leng commented, “During normal times, and especially during these unprecedented times, helping the most vulnerable is a top priority. The collaboration and coordination between the Town, Hamden Police Department, and outside agencies to assist these individuals in need gives me hope and is a great example of what working together can do.”