The Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen has found a home at the Center Church on the Green Parish House for 20 years. The non-profit has offered a food pantry weekly and nightly dinners at 5 p.m. for the homeless.
They’ve discovered with more space comes more opportunity.
“Over time we’ve really found that we can provide so much more to the people we serve by not just providing a meal and basic needs, but also being there and being available for them whenever we can,” said Steve Werlin, executive director of the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen.
For now, this space is a drop-in location while the expansion continues.
“The idea behind a drop-in center is that people can come whenever, so they can literally drop in throughout the day, they can get a cup of coffee, they can just get in off the street, they can get connected to Wi-Fi,” said Werlin.
They say it’s going to take some time for them to finish work at the new State Street location and completely move in from Center Church. They’ll continue cooking and serving meals at the church while the kitchen on state street is built. And soon, people will be able to find health care upstairs.
“A lot of times when we’re in the different locations it’s not exactly the most opportune time to see them because they’re trying to get settled in and eat, they might be trying to get settled in to a shelter so they can sleep for the night,” said Philip Costello who works on the health care for the homeless team at Cornell Scott-Hill Health.
They’re hopeful access to health care will get easier. The second-floor apartments above the soup kitchen are planned to become a health center, where people can have a chance to focus on their health.
Costello says often people are in survival mode, putting a priority on staying warm, finding a meal and a safe place to sleep. He says people may now consider coming into the center and getting care from people they trust.
“Maybe I can get my vaccination. Or maybe I can get my flu shot, or maybe I can take care of my blood pressure which I haven’t had medicine since I became homeless,” said Costello of the people he works with frequently.
The city says these types of resources are huge.
“It can’t be overstated how important these types of programs are, given not just the food insecurity that we know exists, but the fact that there’s uncertainty around how much food insecurity there is,” said Dr. Mehul Dalal, the community services administrator for New Haven.
The program is a non-profit so Werlin credits donations from local groups as they move through renovation phases.
“Through those donations we’ve been able to hire additional staff, bring in more food, open new programs and really serve more people.”