With the support of hundreds of people throughout the county, we have transformed the backyard of the Amistad House of Hospitality into a micro-neighborhood that welcomes unhoused people into a supportive community, and gives them a home.
Click below to watch how this project developed and hear from leaders and homeless neighbors in the backyard.
Bold first steps
For thirty years, the Amistad House of Hospitality has been dedicated to helping New Haven’s poorest residents—providing refuge, sustenance, companionship and housing support at 203 Rosette Street, which is also the home of Mark and Luz Colville. (Luz and Mark are longtime neighborhood activists who were honored as New Haven’s Persons of the Year in 2019.)
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the housing crisis in the city of New Haven. Rents soared as wages were cut, jobs were downsized, and medical bills became untenable. For people and families (yes, families) who had no where to turn, they left the safety of their homes and joined others who were surviving by living in tents on the street. While this was far from an ideal living situation for anyone living there, the encampments started to become communities where people could live together and help one another. During the height of the pandemic, the city let them be. Unfortunately, starting in late 2022, the city began clearing encampments and forcibly removing people from these encampment homes, even though the city had no housing to offer them. Belongings were destroyed, communities were scattered, and people died.
In response to this crisis, Amistad opened its backyard as a refuge where unhoused people were welcomed to tent, free from the fear of eviction and harassment. The response was overwhelming and transformational. Most people experiencing homelessness are desperately trying to get out of it, and Amistad was providing a start. The backyard residents began to form a community, but continued to lack dignity and safety.
Inspiring a team
Moved by the suffering that homelessness causes and inspired by the possibility of what Amistad was doing, a group of community members (mental health professionals, faith leaders, writers, scholars, business leaders, people experiencing homelessness, and students) united to raise money to elevate the living standard of the backyard residents, calling the micro-neighborhood in the backyard the “Rosette Neighborhood Village” (Amistad House is located on Rosette Street).
They hoped to build 6 tiny homes for 8 people to live in before 2024. (Read more about the tiny homes, here.)
Structures where unhoused residents used to live
The Amistad backyard—location of the Rosette Neighborhood Village
When people are welcomed into the backyard, they are given a little piece of land. They are knitted into a community. And, when people who have been experiencing homelessness—people who have been ignored, ridiculed, and cast aside—are given a home and position of belonging, they become neighbors. Our backyard residents are actively becoming members of the larger New Haven community. This is part of the pledge that all 15 residents make when they join the Rosette Neighborhood Village.
“In the backyard here I have a little 6x6 wooden hut. And it’s really tiny. But you know what, it’s mine. When I first came here, Mark said “we’re giving you a piece of land.” And it’s really powerful, in my opinion, when you have your own space that you’re free to control.”
Transforming the neighborhood
A fundamental aspect of living in the Rosette Neighborhood Village is giving back to the community. A wonderful example of this is the community garden that is located next to the Amistad House. For years, this garden has been neglected, untended, and forgotten. This growing season, residents have been busy revitalizing the community garden.
What it's like to be homeless
“Cast aside. Told you can’t sleep on a bench. Being told you have too much stuff, you have to go. They don’t want you around. They don’t want you visible. You are supposed to be invisible all the time. And if you’re visible, you’re a criminal. And if you’re a criminal, you go to jail.” ~Rico