NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Protesters stood on the steps of a New Haven courthouse on Friday, one week after city leaders demolished a “tent city” homeless community off Ella T. Grasso Boulevard.
“You may call it tent city, but [homeless individuals] called it home,” said Jamell Savage, a protester who identified as a member of the homeless community.
City leaders said the community had unhealthy and dangerous living conditions. Savage argued that the city is just pushing the homeless out.
“The mayor has shown that he wants to villainize people as vermin, and we’re not vermin,” Savage said. “We’re a part of this community, but not his ideal community.”
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker stood outside of the courthouse among the protesters.
“I didn’t agree with a lot of the things [protesters] said,” he said. “I think that they framed the city’s work in a way that is not accurate.”
Elicker said the city is investing $1.4 million annually for services, including opening drop-in and warming centers and creating more affordable housing units.
“It’s always important for people to push the city to do more; but man, we’re working so hard on this issue,” he said. “We really, really care about this issue.”
Mark Colville, an activist with the Catholic Worker Movement, appeared in court on Friday for an arraignment. He’s charged with trespassing after refusing to leave the encampment as city leaders dismantled the site.
He said he does not want the court to drop his charge so he can continue the fight for basic human rights.
“This mayor and his administration need to say in court what they’re telling the public about people experiencing homelessness,” Colville said.
Colville’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 13.
As for the homeless residents evicted from the tent city, Colville said five individuals are now living in his backyard, which they’ve dedicated a “human rights zone.” They’re also working to find other people housing.