Hundreds walk through New London in support of homeless center

New London — What will you do to end homelessness?

City resident Nora Soruco took a step back and considered the question Sunday afternoon, before approaching the black-painted door to write her answer alongside other phrases scribbled in chalk.

“Continue to support food kitchens,” she wrote.

The next door, leaned against a railing on the Parade Plaza in New London, asked in Spanish what effect homelessness has.

Soruco wrote just one word: “isolado” – isolated.

A volunteer at her church’s weekly soup kitchen, Soruco said she has seen people who are homeless come for a meal who know what it means to feel isolated.

“They feel lonely,” she said. “They feel like they don’t belong.”

Soruco joined hundreds of volunteers who took to the streets under sunny skies Sunday to show the city’s homeless that, in many places, they do belong.

The Homeless Hospitality Center’s ninth annual Walk to End Homelessness drew an enthusiastic crowd to its Huntington Street parking lot Sunday afternoon, representing a broad spectrum of the city’s residents.

The walk was a collaboration between the center and Connecticut College students and faculty from the Holleran Center's Program in Community Action and the art and gender and women's studies departments. It led participants on Sunday by several city landmarks that have served New London's homeless population.

“We have volunteers spread throughout the city,” Homeless Hospitality Center Executive Director Catherine Zall told the crowd.

Zall said the event had more sponsors in its ninth year than ever before.

The walkers set out with a cheer just after 2 p.m. They made their way to the former site of the drop-in shelter at 19 Jay St., where Connecticut College student volunteers had written quotes from interviews they did with residents of the Homeless Hospitality Center in chalk on the ground.

“I have never been one to ask for help,” read one.

“We just wanted to give them a voice, and do that visually,” said Alana Wimer, a Conn College sophomore who conducted the interviews.

The hundreds of walkers read the quotes, some jotting down their own onto the pavement, and moved on to the Covenant Shelter, the Homeward Bound thrift store and finally Parade Plaza, just down State Street from the Public Library of New London and the First Congregational Church, which serves breakfast every weekday morning.

The walk would likely raise more than $15,000 for the Homeless Hospitality Center, according to Barb Nagy, the center's communications and development manager.

Later Sunday afternoon, members of the Connecticut College a capella group Miss Conduct serenaded the crowd.

The walkers wrote their answers to questions posed on the black doors, which will be displayed at the Homeless Hospitality Center after Sunday.

“I think it’s a powerful visual,” said Anna Peterson, a Connecticut College student who helped organize Sunday’s walk. “The idea was to find a way for everyone in the community to … show their voice.”

m.shanahan@theday.com

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