Homeless seems to be on the rise in Connecticut in the middle of the pandemic, but hope is on the horizon in Hartford where Immacare will reopen its 75-bed shelter in the coming weeks.
“It’s not like I just became homeless overnight. I definitely made some poor choices. Things just start slipping away,” Ryan McNulty said.
McNulty was a client at Immacare, which is in the old Immaculate Conception Church on Park Street in Hartford, before becoming the head chef.
“I was in their shoes exactly, so I know how it is. I know how it is to be out here. To help the homeless is a great thing,” Miguel Luna said.
Luna was homeless and now he’s a shift supervisor at the shelter.
“Everybody deserves a home so there’s been a real change, I see ourselves more like an emergency room at a hospital now,” Lou Gilbert, executive director of Immacare said. “You don’t go the emergency room at the hospital to stay there. You go to be assessed, helped out and moved back into the community with dignity.”
With $5 million from the state and help from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Immacare was able to renovate the 125-year-old church to make it more suitable for its clients.
The renovated housing navigation center comes equipped with updated showers and laundry facilities as well as a kitchen for food service and a dining area.
“This building which had been a historic church had fallen into incredible disrepair and so this is important to restore the building, to make sure there is adequate shelter space, because the need now is higher than ever as we go through this pandemic. And as shelters over the years have closed around the region,” Bronin said.
During the pandemic shelters had to limit capacity and many homeless found themselves out on the street. That’s why it’s such a relief to housing officials that Immacare will be able to reopen its doors in the coming weeks.
“There is so much that depends on having that stable foundation of a home. A place where you can live, a place where you can go to,” Bronin said.
“We still have a number of hotels that we are paying for and we will continue if needed for the winter,” Housing Commissioner Selia Mosquera-Bruno said.
Mosquera-Bruno said the Coordinated Access Network has moved more than 1,000 people who were homeless at the beginning of the pandemic into permanent housing.
“We do have the need to keep shelters and hotels open,” Mosquera-Bruno said.
Immacare clients will be offered guidance from an onsite employment specialist.
“You kinda almost lose hope. That’s the thing you never want to lose hope. But it takes time. I didn’t become homeless overnight. I didn’t get myself out of that situation overnight either,” McNulty said.