Wallingford shelter moves guests to Meriden hotel as donations come in

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WALLINGFORD — The emergency shelter has moved its clients to a Meriden hotel, but local residents have not forgotten about them.

Columbus House, the New Haven-based nonprofit that operates the Wallingford Emergency Shelter, recently moved nine guests from the shelter, 123 Quinnipiac St., to the Red Roof Inn, 10 Bee St. in Meriden.

John Brooks, Columbus House chief development officer, said Tuesday that although the Wallingford shelter operates seasonally and would have closed April 5, the guests were moved due to coronavirus concerns. 

Wallingford’s family shelter units, located in four townhouses behind the emergency shelter, operate year-round and are still open.

Another 19 clients were moved to the hotel from the Middletown Warming Center, which also would have closed on April 5.

Street outreach and referral work is continuing to bring clients into the system and the hotel, which has a staff member present around the clock, Brooks said.

Payment for hotel rooms is arranged by the state Department of Housing, the agency that’s been coordinating and contracting with hotels.

People can help keep Columbus House operating by making a financial contribution to help pay for logistics, materials and other things needed to provide service to clients, Brooks said.

Columbus House also is accepting donations of personal hygiene items, and on Tuesday received a donation of more than $1,000 worth of supplies.

The toiletries — shampoo, deodorant, soap, hair brushes, socks and feminine products — came through a coordinated effort of the Connecticut Community Initiative, the Brian O’Connell Homeless Project and Weston Ulbrich, a Columbus House board member.

Donna Finneran, of the Brian O’Connell Homeless Project in Oakville, creates “Brian Bags” with personal hygiene items for the homeless.

She said that since she can’t perform that outreach herself — her adult daughter is recuperating at home from a surgery that left her with a low immune system — she wanted to give away her cache of items so they could be put to use immediately.

“I don’t want to be sitting on anything,” she said, “because the homeless really need it.”

She emptied her closet, she said, and gave about $1,000 worth of items to Tim Nielsen, of the Connecticut Community Initiative, who had contacted Finneran about a donation.

He picked up the items Saturday and Kaylie Chudyi, a Wallingford resident and Connecticut Community Initiative volunteer, dropped off supplies to the emergency shelter Tuesday.

“I’ve been volunteering for a little while,” said Chudyi, a 32-year-old mom. “...I didn’t have an easy start in my 20s. I went through a few terrible times so I wanted to give back.”

Ulbrich also dropped off items Tuesday. He’s been running a collection since Friday at West Side Market, 44 S. Turnpike Road, and East Center Market, 816 E. Center St., which continues through April 30.

Ulbrich, whose grandfather, Fred Ulbrich Jr., donated the funds for the emergency shelter’s family units, is collecting body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, shaving cream and razors.

Brooks said the other thing Columbus House staff need is personal protective equipment.

“There’s just a desperate shortage of PPE that our folks need,” he said, adding the group is accepting donations of masks, hand sanitizer and gloves.

“People have been great but we need more,” Brooks said. “We’re going through them as fast as they’re donated.”

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores

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