Dec 31, 2013
05:49 AM
The Connecticut Story

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy Takes to New Haven Streets to Learn About Homelessness

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy Takes to New Haven Streets to Learn About Homelessness

Peter Casolino

Senator Chris Murphy talks with Alison Cunningham, executive director of the Columbus House as Murphy spent the day with a New Haven homeless man. Murphy followed the man for an entire day, seeing what the homeless go through to survive. He was at the Columbus house, where the man was sleeping at night.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., dropped himself into the life of one of his state’s most unfortunate Monday.

Murphy shadowed a homeless man, following the transient from the Columbus House Inc. shelter on Ella T. Grasso Boulevard to a methadone clinic, an impromptu meeting with other homeless men on the New Haven Green and an Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting.

“There is just a limit to what you can understand about the reality of homelessness when you are around a conference table,” Murphy said.

Murphy said his efforts Monday weren’t a prelude to a policy push on homelessness, but a fact finding mission to examine the plight of transients in Connecticut.

It was the second time in less than a year that Murphy has tried to gain firsthand knowledge about his state’s poor. In May, Murphy captured national media attention when he lived on Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits for five days. He claims to have lost six pounds during his time on the food assistance program.

On Monday, Murphy was partnered with a 39-year-old man who is staying at Columbus House. The man agreed to be interviewed, but asked not to be named.

Their day started at 7 a.m., when Murphy and the homeless man let the doors of the shelter close behind them, and began to trek along the streets of New Haven.

“Don’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in his shoes,” Murphy said after he returned.

The phrase fit not only the sentiment of Murphy’s day, but the physical logistics. The pair covered more than four miles on foot. The homeless man can’t afford a bus pass. And when they weren’t walking they were trying to stay warm.

“The day was a lot of walking punctuated by trying to get inside,” Murphy said.

Like other shelters in New Haven, Columbus House doesn’t allow its residents to linger for the day, except in certain circumstances, such as illness.

“We want them out looking for jobs and out attending programs,” said Columbus House Executive Director Alison Cunningham

The first stop for Murphy and his homeless partner was a methadone clinic. The homeless man is battling drug addiction, and methadone is used to soften the impact of withdrawal.

“I usually stay longer, but because of confidentiality reasons we didn’t stay,” said the man.

The two were forced back on the street and into the cold.

“As long as you kept moving it was OK,” Murphy said about battling the elements Monday.

For the rest of this story, visit New Haven Register online.


Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy Takes to New Haven Streets to Learn About Homelessness

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