Photos show conditions inside homeless shelter

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Homeless advocates say the City of New Haven and a shelter are trying to cover up problems inside a shelter after a homeless man photographed what he calls hazardous conditions inside.

“There’s mold in areas,” Flor “Rico” Jones said. “It’s black mold and it’s not breathable.”

Jones saw more than during his stay at the Grand Avenue homeless shelter. He took photographs of broken bathroom tiles, exposed pipes and missing toilet lids to show others the poor conditions there. Then, last Thursday, he got kicked out for taking pictures.

“They’re afraid of the idea that if people go ahead and get to see what kind of filth is in the building that it would do them some harm.”

But the city says there are simply shelter rules against taking pictures.

“They feel that taking pictures without permission is violating people’s confidentiality and they have some confidentiality rules at the shelter,” said Tomas Reyes, chief of staff to Mayor Toni Harp.

Homeless advocates stood on the steps of City Hall Monday, saying the shelter conditions are just part of the problem. They say the homeless are kicked out of parks when they try to sleep on benches, then kicked out of shelters when they complain about conditions.

The group Amistad Catholic Worker has kind of taken things into its own hands before, basically taking over a piece of city property and making it a homeless camp. They say if things don’t improve they will do it again.

“On July 24th, we will take over another property, because if the city is not going to defend people’s rights, we will do it ourselves,” Greg Williams said.

Reyes says the city can’t assume liability for homeless camps on city property. Plus, there’s a new plan in the works for a more permanent solution. “All of the shelter providers are in the same room trying to put together a plan that they are actively seeking to house over 100 of the chronic homeless in New Haven,” he said.

But the activists from Amistad Catholic Worker say they’ve heard promises like that many times before.

Jones tells News 8 he’s staying with people he knows since getting kicked out of the shelter, but he’s not sure how much longer he can stay there.

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