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Has “Hat City” turned into “Tent City”?

Cross post from HatCityBLOG

I’m pumped and ready to get to work. This is a big deal.”
-Mayor Mark Boughton on his 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness: The News-Times May 2 2006.

Long before he used the issue of immigration for political purposes, Mark Boughton made the fight to end homelessness in Danbury the centerpiece of mayoral agenda. In 2005 Boughton established a task force in which he appointed Probate Judge Dianne Yamin as chair and a host of public officials, business leaders, religious leaders, and Danbury residents to address the issue of homelessness in the city.

In mid-2006, the mayor held a well-publicized press conference where unveiled the task force’s detailed and comprehensive plan to end homelessness within ten years.

Here’s what News-Times reporter Nanci G. Hutson wrote about Boughton’s homelessness initiative during a press conference he held in May 2006.

In the lobby of City Hall on Monday afternoon, Mayor Mark Boughton unveiled the final plan of the Mayor’s Task Force to End homelessness.

[…]

Boughton said the city will direct resources to implement the plan, including staff resources and some 50,000 toward a 110,000 total between the city, the Association of Religious Communities and the Housing Authority.

The agencies will be responsible for setting up a centralized system where the homeless or people at risk can be identified and assessed for housing services.

[…]

The task force’s four main objectives are:

* Increase the supply of affordable, permanent housing units to meet the projected need of homeless people.

* Reduce the number of people being discharged into homelessness from state and local institutions and agencies, and preventing evictions.

* Ensure adequate, appropriate and sufficient services to assist the homeless or those at risk to get and retain housing.

* Monitor implementation of the plan

For those who are new to the area or don’t recall the events of 2006, Boughton went above overboard in promoting his plan with a PR campaign complete with a detailed 38 page report on his vision for the city.

Make no mistake about it, the Task Force Plan was very detailed and outlined goals that were to be accomplished for each of the ten years. Unfortunately, Boughton’s much hyped plan to end homelessness got lost in the background as the issue of immigration became the hot topic of the moment.

Five years later, The News-Times did a check-up on the plan to see how things were going…and the mayor enthusiasm from 2006 seem to disappear…

Now that it’s 2011, Boughton remains optimistic about the next five to 10 years.

“I feel pretty good about where we are,” Boughton said. “Will we end homelessness in 10 years? Probably not.”

[…]

“It’s a regional problem. Danbury shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden for the whole region,” Boughton said.

The purpose of using the term “ending homelessness” was to change the mindset of the homeless and the community, Boughton said.

The mayor also elaborated changes the city has made to track homeless individuals…

Since the plan has been implemented, there is now a single “point of entry” for people without shelter, Boughton said.

This point of entry enables local agencies that help homeless people to track individuals, keep data on them and refer them to the most appropriate resources, Boughton said.

Upon reading the March 8 News-Times article, I wanted to learn more about the issue of homelessness and whether or not Boughton’s plan did any good. Based on what I’ve learned over the lat few months, when it comes to homelessness, things are worse off now than they were in 2005.

Case in point, do you know that there is a rather large tent city in Danbury right in the middle of a residential neighborhood?

Hidden under a bridge on Casper Street yards away from the Mankind Corporation and yards away from residential homes is the highly disturbing homeless complex that words can not describe. Ironically, on the same day of this year’s Clean City Danbury. an outraged resident went down Casper Street to videotape and document the city’s dirty secret.

As you can see, since access to the shantytown is rather simple, so you can imagine children in the area snooping around under this bridge on the well-known street…and from what I’m told, this isn’t the only shantytown in the city.

Didn’t the mayor state that the city made great strides to track the homeless population? I guess that didn’t include tracking the homeless people living off the Still River right in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

In short, if Boughton was really serious about the issue of homelessness as he claimed in 2006, how on Earth can we have large tent cities like the one on Casper Street five years after the unveiling of his so-called plan?

I think it’s fair to say that I don’t think people who live along Casper Street and other areas of the city where tent cities are popping up aren’t buying Boughton’s homelessness message.

…more later.

UPDATE: I forgot to add that Casper Street is the same street where the annual Soap Box Derby is held.

Some 30 children between the ages of 8 and 16 competed in the official Soap Box Derby, including a group of special needs children who rode in two-seat derby cars with one of the older, former champion riders assisting them. At the end of the afternoon, five competers were crowned winners and they will go on to the national championships in Akron, Ohio.

UPDATE 2: The person who shot the video footage of Casper Street had this to say…

This is the day after Danbury Connecticut Clean up day on May, 8, 2011. This Shantytown has been here for years and has been polluting the Still River. The Still River Clean up day is coming up this week. Maybe they can clean up river for once. Maybe you don’t understand that garbage actually flows downstream so why are you always cleaning the same area down stream? I have seen a police officer go down there a few months ago so the City does know. Casper Street is the road where they have the annual Soap Box Derby. Casper Street also has Homes and businesses’ with one business being The Mann Kind Corporation. Kind of ironic that a company named Mannkind has a homeless man living right outside the building..not so kind to man after all…

Obviously who ever is living in skid row under the Casper Street Bridge next to the Still River needs help. Looks like Danbury could use a tent city. How about Lee Farm?

Sadly we all see homeless people from time to time, and not just on TV. But until you see it up close you realize you have to do something. We have the resources. So it’s definitely a misuse and abuse of resources that is causing this problem to happen. How do you educate the public about how everyone is responsible for making sure that our resources are being used properly?

This is not just about being homeless. People need consoling, drug addiction help, education and job skills. They also need friends and some kind of support group that listens to them and understands their needs and struggles. So you need to properly train enough people to give this kind of help.