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New Haven Tent City residents vow to resist encampment eviction order

Jaquedah Williams (left) is steadied by volunteer and organizer Rachel Vincent as Williams steps off of the wooden palette where the tent she lives in sits. Williams has been living in an encampment in New Haven’s West River Memorial Park for three years. The city gave residents of the encampment an eviction notice this week, leaving people living there scrambling to find another place to stay.
Ryan Caron King
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Connecticut Public
Jaquedah Williams (left) is steadied by volunteer and organizer Rachel Vincent as Williams steps off of the wooden palette where the tent she lives in sits. Williams has been living in an encampment in New Haven’s West River Memorial Park for three years. The city gave residents of the encampment an eviction notice this week, leaving people living there scrambling to find another place to stay.

New Haven city officials issued a second eviction order, carried out Wednesday, for members of Tent City, an encampment composed of at least eight people experiencing homelessness.

The city previously issued eviction notices on residents’ tents two weeks ago, with a list of public safety citations that had to be corrected.

Mark Colville, an organizer, New Haven resident, and founder of the city’s Amistad Catholic Worker community, said residents followed the city’s orders. Members of Amistad and the Unhoused Activists Community Team had planned to organize a day to help residents clean up.

“Two days later, they had cleaned the whole thing up themselves," Colville said. "We didn’t even have to organize anything. They complied with every citation on that eviction notice.”

However, Mehul Dalal, a community services administrator for New Haven, still cited safety and environmental concerns that led the city to its decision, including “open burns, building of permanent structures, lots of debris.”

“We also think it’s a very important opportunity for folks, the residents who are living on site, to engage with services," Dalal said. "And we had alternatives we could offer folks, including shelter beds.”

Kerry Ellington attended the protest in response to the Unhoused Activists Community Team’s call to action to stand in solidarity with residents of Tent City.

“The shelters are temporary, a piecemeal solution that the city is offering," Ellington said. "The city cannot guarantee those shelters will continue to house those people after a given period of time.”

Local organizer Kerry Ellington confronts Dr. Mehul Dalal, the city’s Community Services Administrator, saying that it was hypocritical that the city was cracking down on residents of the encampment without going after absentee landlords or addressing the shortage of affordable housing.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Local organizer Kerry Ellington confronts Dr. Mehul Dalal, the city’s Community Services Administrator, saying that it was hypocritical that the city was cracking down on residents of the encampment without going after absentee landlords or addressing the shortage of affordable housing.

Ellington says the housing violations the city should be focused on are what she called “slumlords” in New Haven.

“The city could be prioritizing and going after and enforcing their housing code, and instead they're going after people who are unhoused on the grassland and claiming that there's violations happening on a piece of grassland doesn't make any sense,” she said.

Barry Lawson, a former tenant of Mandy Management apartments in New Haven, moved to Tent City after his rent was raised from $1,100 a month to $1,650 a month. Lawson says he was notified of the eviction during Tuesday’s nor’easter.

“At the rate it's going, more and more people are going to end up on the street," Lawson said. "They're going to have a lot of people who are put in jail cells, if they try to arrest people for standing their ground like I'm going to do here.”

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said that "outreach workers have offered all individuals at the site access and placement at an indoor location, either at a shelter or warming center, or to assist them with relocation and finding a long-term housing unit."

People living in a tent encampment along the West River in New Haven gather their belongings and start to move out after the city ordered them to vacate the site. Unhoused people have been living there for decades, and community members came to “blockade” city officials or police if they came during the day to remove the tents. (Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public)
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Eviction orders by the city of New Haven were taped to the tents in the West River encampment last week where about 10 people have been living.

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