University News

University of New Haven Supports First Responders During Coronavirus Pandemic

As local public safety professionals and emergency personnel work to keep the community safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, the University of New Haven is doing its part to help support their efforts by offering critically needed temporary housing in its residence halls.

March 31, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of University of New Haven Sign.
The University of New Haven is providing housing for local first responders during the coronavirus pandemic.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker faced an urgent need for temporary housing for some of the first responders who have been doing so much over the past month to aid in the community’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mayor Elicker reached out to University of New Haven President Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D., for help. The city needed safe housing for up to 180 of its police officers and firefighters.

Mayor Elicker said President Kaplan, “in the first 5 minutes of the conversation, said ‘Yes. We will make this happen. This is important for the community.’”

The University is also working with West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi to provide housing, as necessary, for the city’s police officers and firefighters as well as employees of the city’s 911 Center. In addition, on-campus housing would also be provided to members of the University’s Police Department, as the need arises.

"When Mayor Elicker asked me to help out with law enforcement and firefighters, it was just a natural yes." President Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D.

Amid the threat of the global coronavirus pandemic, the University decided in mid-March that students would complete the spring semester remotely, and many who lived on campus had already moved out of the residence halls.

“I immediately responded that we would accommodate them any way we could,” Kaplan told Esquire. “In the last twenty-five years, we've developed into an international powerhouse in public safety, criminal justice, fire science, and forensic science. So, when Mayor Elicker asked me to help out with law enforcement and firefighters, it was just a natural yes.”

The first responders in need of temporary housing may live far away, have a sick family member, or may have been exposed to COVID-19 and are awaiting test results. None of the individuals living in the residence halls will have been positively diagnosed with COVID-19.

Soon after President Kaplan and Mayor Elicker spoke, University of New Haven staff members immediately got to work readying rooms that were vacated as part of a voluntary program the University created with local health officials that enabled resident students to return to campus recently to collect their belongings.

"They rolled out the red carpet for us." New Haven fire chief John Alston

Only rooms that are empty of student belongings have the potential of being used at this time. All personal items currently in campus housing will remain secured in the students’ rooms.

The University expects first responders to begin moving into the residence halls this week.

As the agreement was being finalized last week, the University organized a tour of its residence halls for New Haven fire chief John Alston and chief of police Otoniel Reyes ’14 MPA.

“They rolled out the red carpet for us,” Alston told Esquire. “The University said, ‘We’ve got dormitories. They can stay here.’ We’re not going to put anyone there who’s COVID-positive, obviously. But if we need to observe someone, it’s exactly what we need.”

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