Mayor Pedro Segarra must think it is unfair when people call him a liar, or worse.
After all, he claims to act in the best interests of the city. But to 30 or so resident on South Marshall Street, Mayor Segarra is Mayor Caviar, over and over again.
Those 30 or so people live in the Salvation Army shelter for single women who are homeless, with children. The shelter needs money, and the City has long dedicated a $100,000.00 line item in the budget, which is matched by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
Last week, Court of Common Council members realized that the budget line item for the shelter they approved by an 87-1 ratio was secretly eliminated. No one thought to check it was in the budget before the Council approved it.
But somehow, the Mayor’s office cut that $100,000.00 line item for the women and family shelter from the budget. No doubt, the money was shuffled off to pay for stadium consultants, or for something similarly frivolous.
The $100,000 is not there now, and the women face eviction in a matter of days or weeks, according to council member Larry Deutsch, who presided over a public hearing and public comment session Monday night, August 18, 2014.
Only council members Deutsch and David MacDonald attended Monday night’s hearing. Council Deutsch admitted that this sleight of hand in the budget slipped past him and other council members. So when it was his turn to run the public hearing, he invited the women to come and speak, and NBC-30 News came, too.
The women who live in the Salvation Army Shelter on South Marshall communicated contempt, anger, and disdain with a political process that threatens to send them back to the land of homelessness.
In English and Spanish (with a translator), they described the futility of calling 211, even though every agency in the City and beyond tells them to call 211. They documented the problems with obtaining Section 8, which has a three or four year wait list.
One woman, a Hartford transplant from Oklahoma by way of Atlanta, reminded Detusch and MacDonald repeatedly that the politicians in their fur-lined slippers are too distant from their daily struggles to move with the urgency that their situation demands.
She wanted justice, and she still wants it now. She complained that the elected officials who have a warm shower and a cozy bed with a roof over their head do not think enough about the less fortunate. And she reiterated that she is not looking for a handout, because she has a job.
It’s just not enough money to pay the bills as a single mom. Rent is too much on a one-bedroom, and it’s a cruel world out there. The United States is one of the only countries in the western world that outright refuses to mandate paid maternity leave. A woman who is seven months pregnant is about to be homeless.
Yet these women have their act together enough to pay the shelter 30 percent of their monthly wages. Some of the women have jobs. Most of them have children, although some may not actually have custody of their children.
These women have nowhere to turn, and the political process moves too slowly for them. They need immediate help.
Sadly, one story on the TV news and strong comments at a public hearing are insufficient to embarrass this Mayor enough to make him cough up $100,000 for women. I’m not sure what is enough, given this Mayor’s legendary ineptitude and callousness. He’s Mayor Caviar for a reason. And his cruelty is showing on this one.
Should Mayor Compassionless stick by his guns and force the closure of the shelter, the problems with this short-sighted decision will ripple across generations.
Homeless children are sick four times more often than other children, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness. Homeless children go hungry twice as often as other children, and experience high rates of obesity due to malnutrition, according to the same source.
Most importantly, homeless children have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to children with housing, the National Center’s website said. Now, put these kids in public schools, and we can see why the achievement gap exists.
Children who experience homelessness are “four times more likely to show delayed development” and “twice as likely to have learning disabilities as non-homeless chidlren,” again, from the National Center on Family Homelessness.
So our woman who is seven months pregnant, living in the shelter, under the unnecessary stress of eviction, is likely to birth a child doomed from the start. And Mayor Caviar? Let’s have Josh Solomon over for dinner, and continue planning our stadium debacle.
This stadium will never be built, and all the time the Mayor and his administration are wasting on it is time we can never get back to address real issues facing our city. It is ridiculous that I even have to write this column, pleading for funding for women in transition.
The budget cut to the homeless shelter is a preventable crisis. The cut will create foreseeable, scientifically ascertainable results that decimate our measures of societal wellness. So why is it happening? Why is there a gap in affordable housing for single mothers?
Why, in 2014, is this a continuing problem when we know the results will drain our society for years to come, and doom women and children to a life of poverty and pain? And why is the homeless shelter for single mothers and their children on the worst street in Asylum Hill, and one of the worst streets in all of the City of Hartford.
The first time court of common council heard public comment on the proposed Rock Cats stadium this past June, I called for investment in housing for single mothers, instead of a stupid stadium. I’m not a sooth sayer. I’d just like to think I have my priorities in order.
Public spending for entertainment infrastructure is so much lower on the priority list than spending on essential human rights and dignities.
Until we have universal literacy, until we create safe streets and vibrant neighborhoods with parks and affordable housing, until we expand our health care infrastructure, until we employ all who want a job, focusing on anything else is taking our eyes off the prize.
Once we obtain all of those goals as a community, people will invest in the city. At that point, we can build a baseball stadium. And we can even give the Mayor a suite.
Until then, Mr. Mayor, people will be right to think you are disingenuous when you can find hundreds of thousands for a pipe dream, but do it on the back of society’s most vulnerable. Change their minds, Mr. Mayor, and find the $100,000.00 to fund the women’s shelter.