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HARTFORD—State Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, who is running for mayor in November, stood outside the YMCA building on Jewell Street Thursday to call on Mayor Eddie Perez to re-open the approximately 300 vacant rooms to the city’s homeless population.

“Using community development block grant funds, these rooms must be set aside as an emergency winter shelter so that no one freezes this winter,” Gonzalez said. Her Republican opponent for mayor, J. Stan McCauley, applauded the idea. “It’s a no brainer,” he said standing on Ann Street across the street from the YMCA.

“You have to give credit where credit is due…and this is an issue that cuts across party lines and political ventures,” McCauley added.

Perez’s campaign spokesman Ken Curran said “this is just another case where Minnie is not offering all the facts.” He said the city of Hartford does not own the building. He said the building still belongs to the YMCA, even though more than a year ago there was talk about it being sold to Northland Development.

According to an Aug. 11, 2006 article from the Hartford Courant, Northland began discussions with the city to secure public financing to turn the building it into high-end condominiums and apartments. The Courant reported that the “YMCA, which has agreed to sell its real estate to Northland, has already moved most of its operations from the Jewell Street facility to other locations around the city.”

Curran said Perez has worked hard at being part of the solution to end homelessness when he formed a Commission to End Homelessness. The commission offered its solution to the homeless problem last week. Click here for the 10-year plan. Part of the plan is to build 2,133 supportive housing units, including 1,293 housing units for the chronically homeless in the region and for each housing unit built in Hartford, one unit will be built in one of the 28 surrounding towns in the Capitol Region.

Christine Stuart photo
Gonzalez said having a long-term plan is nice, but in the meantime, where are these people going to go. She said there’s a minimum amount of time they’re allowed to stay in the homeless shelters, which are already crowded.

A 21-year-old homeless man, who asked not to be identified, said he’s currently living at the McKinney Shelter in Hartford and is trying to get into subsidized housing, but is having a tough time. He said he’s having a hard time finding a job because he served time in Brooklyn prison for sexual assault. Dumped in Hartford by the prison system, the young man said his time at the shelter is up on Oct. 29 and with no promises of employment he may have no where to go.

He said he hopes to get an apartment before winter because he doesn’t want to be walking the streets when its cold out.