New Haven Homeless Make Strides for Others

Sunny June mornings are a walk in the park for Bruce Hickson, but just three years ago, his future looked grim.

"I was into drugs real deep and lost control, naturally, because drugs are going to make you lose control anyway," the 68-year-old said.

The story's much the same for Dawn Hines, 38.

"I was suicidal, hopeless, you know, not in a very good space," Hines said.

Hickson and Hines have turned their lives around with the help of Columbus House, an agency dedicated to rehabilitating the homeless in New Haven. Today, they both live at the Cedar Hills Apartments on State Street, where about 50 formerly homeless men and women enjoy permanent supportive housing.

Columbus House has about two dozen clients, a small fraction of those who are in dire need in the Elm City, Alison Cunningham, the agency's executive director, said.

"On any given night, there are (more than) 800 people who are homeless, living in shelters or on the streets or (in) transitional programming," Cunningham said.

But, there are less than 300 available beds and demand is on the rise with the continued layoffs and foreclosures.

Now, the Columbus House staff and some clients are stepping out for the cause. They are preparing for Saturday's Blum Shapiro 5K Race For Charity at the TPC in Cromwell. It's a new event that extends the Travelers Championship's charitable reach to four Connecticut agencies dedicated to ending homelessness.

For Columbus House, this race is not just about raising money.

"It's also for the awareness that it builds among the folks who don't know that there are people who are homeless in the state and who don't know about the services of Columbus House," Cunningham said.

Hickson said he's just thankful for the chance to be a part of it.

"It's a blessing. It's a blessing because they're touching a lot of lives," Hickson said.

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