NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Todd and Suki Godek are married and homeless, living in the so-called “tent city” off Ella T. Grasso Boulevard in New Haven.
About a dozen people live in the camp. They said the city has been there for years. But, now, they’re being evicted.
“It’s actually pretty devastating,” Suki Godek said. “We put a lot of work into the camp.”
Todd Godek said the camp’s residents aren’t hurting anyone.
“We got rid of the riff-raff,” he said. “We cleaned up what [the city] wanted to clean up. We went above and beyond.”
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said people were allowed to live there during the pandemic, but that now the conditions are considered unsafe.
“There’s evidence of open burns,” he said. “There are a number of propane tanks and heating devices. They built a shower structure there. There’s human waste and a lot of trash on the site.”
Elicker said residents received several warnings and had multiple opportunities to fix the issues.
Mark Colville, an advocate for homeless outreach, argues residents have a right to live on the property under the United Nation Declaration on Human Rights.
“Am I saying people should be able to run wild or sleep wherever they want? Absolutely not,” Colville said. “In fact, that’s what the city is saying by denying any place for [residents] to be, they have to pick a place. What we’re saying is to designate a place.”
Residents claim the city’s homeless shelters and warming centers are at capacity, have curfews, and are full of drugs and violence.
Elicker said the city is working closely to offer the services the residents need.
“We continue to stand ready to help folks out, but we also need to be sure that folks are going to be safe — and that’s just not what’s happening right now,” Elicker said.
Elicker said residents have until 1 p.m. Wednesday to leave the property, and everyone in the tent city has been offered a bed at a shelter.
In addition to his interview with News 8, Elicker released the following statement:
“We have made regular, ongoing efforts in recent months to try to come alongside and support every individual at the West River Memorial Park in whatever ways we feasibly can in a thoughtful, respectful, and compassionate way — and we continue to stand ready and eager to do so and we want to help connect each person to assistance and resources that help address their housing and other needs.
At the same time, despite repeated conversations and notices, there continues to be numerous serious, ongoing public health and safety violations, including open burns and fires, large amounts of trash and debris, defecation, and the building of permanent structures in the park and wetland areas, among other violations.
Given these ongoing public health and safety issues, the City has required individuals at West River Memorial Park to vacate and remove all personal property from the site by Wednesday, March 15th at 1 pm.
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.
We sincerely hope each person will avail themselves of these opportunities and, as a city, we will continue to come alongside and support these individuals in every way we can.”