On the night of Thursday, June 19, Rico Jones, a New Haven homeless activist, was evicted and permanently banned from the Grand Avenue shelter, where he had been living and paying rent. The reason for the eviction is Jones’s decision to take cell phone photographs of the deplorable and hazardous conditions inside the shelter. Immediately following the eviction, community activists from a variety of struggles gathered at the shelter with Jones to discuss what needs to be done.
When police were first called by some of Jones’s supporters to address the illegal eviction, the NHPD officers said that it was entirely wrong and that Jones should not have been removed. However, after speaking to shelter staff, the officers reversed their position entirely — despite not being told of any actual wrongdoing. Police told Jones and supporters that if they stepped foot on shelter property or the sidewalk in front of the shelter, they would be immediately arrested. They even threatened to arrest members of the press. Jones’s supporters yelled after the officers that it’s a disgrace that private property means more than someone having a safe place to spend the night.
Jones himself has been very clear that his demands go beyond being able to return to a shelter. “I’ve got a fight out here, not just for myself,” he says. “It’s for my brothers in there too.” The shelter authorities are clearly using Jones as a cautionary example for anyone who dares speak out about the conditions inside — which include widespread black mold, insect infestations and unsafe, dilapidated walls and other structures. Rico Jones points out that New Haven mayor Toni Harp had made several promises to clean up the shelter and even end homelessness in the city this year. Rico Jones is grateful to his supporters and says that the fight will and must continue.