How a local high school teacher uses hip hop to help homeless community


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A high school teacher by day and rapper by night; Joey Batts has founded Hip Hop for the Homeless and hosts a series of concerts across Connecticut every holiday season.

“I think the homeless community sees that not only do young people care about the homeless community, not only do hip-hop fans care about the homeless community, but it’s another aspect of the community where they feel like they are not overlooked,” Batts said.

Batts started Hip-hop for the Homeless by just wanting to help the community, especially during the holidays. He realized that with the cold winter months in Connecticut, that the displaced and homeless population have been really struggling.

“In past years, the shows have been a hit — Each show benefitting that community.”

In years past, they were able to perform in bars and clubs across the state. The pandemic has stopped a lot, but it can’t stop the music, so they’ve gone virtual.

Batts said, “This year, obviously with limited opportunities to perform in live venues, we have to do everything remotely. So having to raise funds for specific cities, New Britain, Meriden, Hartford, and Manchester. We wanted to make sure that we still had the feel of being in a specific city.”

It’s the seventh year Joey Batts has put together Hip Hop for the Homeless. The pandemic made that fundraiser harder to plan, but even more crucial to the homeless population.

“The homeless community has been affected because there have been less beds and shelters, and now shelters that typically have 50 to 60 beds because of the social distancing now they’re only able to have 20 to 25 beds, so you’re talking about the homeless community not having as many resources,” Batts said.

The first round of performances happened last weekend — and he’s happy to see all the support. 

“The fundraising has been amazing, the support has been phenomenal,” Batts says. “It’s a testament to not only the amount of families and friends that I have in my support staff that believes in Hip-Hop for the Homeless, but they know they’re doing something for this amount of time. It takes so much passion and so much dedication, and then I think people live vicariously through that and feel happy to help out.”

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