Hundreds walk in New London to end homelessness

New London — Cathy Zall, director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, told hundreds of people ready to begin a 1.6-mile walk through the city Sunday afternoon that the walk was about ending homelessness, but celebrates the New London community as well.

She called the city "a place of compassion, where none of our neighbors experiencing homelessness are left alone."  

During the 10th Annual Walk to End Homelessness, organized by the Homeless Hospitality Center and Connecticut College, hundreds of people walked the city's streets and up and down hills. They stopped to get their "passports" stamped at locations, including the Little Pink House, the Hempsted Houses, and HHC's Vet House, which provides transitional housing for veterans.

Katherine Bergeron, president of Connecticut College, said she was proud to see "the energy that is brought by the entire New London community in helping to address this important social problem." 

Mayor Michael Passero thanked the New London Homeless Hospitality Center and Connecticut College.

"It's good to see so many familiar faces here that are really making New London what we're so proud of, which is a community of inclusiveness, of compassion, of empathy," he said.

Oakdale resident Melanie Miller, who was walking Sunday with her family, said they came to walk because her son, Tyler, is a Boy Scout. They are trying to teach him about the community and supporting people who need help.

New London resident Margarita Mogollon said she moved to the city a couple of years ago and loves the sense of community. 

She decided to join the walk, along with her friends and her wife, Alma Nartatez, to give back to the city and make sure that all people have what they need.

"What a beautiful way to see the city," added Nartatez.

As walkers passed by on Sunday, Anthony Floyd Little greeted them.

"Thank you so much for walking. Because of you I now have a home," he said, and walkers waved and smiled at him.

Barbara Nagy, communications and development manager for the Homeless Hospitality Center, estimated that more than 500 people participated and close to $25,000 was raised.

Zall said in a phone interview that the walk began when the Homeless Hospitality Center was looking for ways to support its work. At the same time, Connecticut College's Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy approached the HHC and wanted to help. Zall said the walk has grown to become both a very important fundraiser for HHC and an event to increase awareness about homelessness.

At the end of Sunday's walk, participants wrote answers to questions — from "How will you end homelessness?" to "Why do you walk?" — on chalkboard doors stationed at Parade Plaza.

"It takes a village to make a change," "We need to keep helping," and "We all make history," were among the answers written in chalk on the door that asked "What did you learn today?"

Conn College seniors Emily Walsh, who took photos of the walk for HHC and Conn students, and Mei Reffsin, who was involved with projects for the event, said it's important to raise awareness about homelessness and eliminate the stigma and stereotypes surrounding homelessness.

Walsh spoke about "taking the illusion away from what homelessness looks like, because there's not ever actually just one picture of it."

The students said they have seen awareness grow each year.

"I think there are a lot of people who care, and the walk grows bigger and bigger every single year," Reffsin said.

The event also scheduled performances from Ben and Nancy Parent of the Rivergods; the Raging Grannies; a drumming circle by Doc Frazier; and Conn's Vox Cameli and spoken word poets.


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