University of New Haven Opens its Dorms to First Responders Amid COVID-19

Anna Downs, Editor-in-Chief

On Friday, University of New Haven announced it will open its residence halls to New Haven’s first responders as they fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

Originally, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker asked officials at Yale University to open their dorms. Elicker told Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, that temporary housing would alleviate the stress of first responders who have been exposed to the virus, and are at risk of spreading it to their families. Separate residences in dorms would also isolate first responders who are symptomatic, or are awaiting results of their testing, to reduce spread within the force.

In a live streamed press conference on Friday, a New Haven resident asked Elicker about his continuing relationship with Yale during the pandemic.

Two weeks ago, prior to the spike of the COVID-19 in the region, Yale’s Salovey reached out to Elicker, saying he would offer any support Yale could give. After being refused housing in dorms, Elicker told The New Haven Register:

“If your house is burning down and you asked a neighbor if your kids could stay at your house and your neighbor said ‘no,’ but here is a check so you could stay at the Econo Lodge across town, what would that tell you about your neighbor?

“It is in these times of crisis when people are exposed for their true selves. Everyone needs to do their part at this very difficult time and writing a check does not exempt you from that fact,” said Elicker.

When Yale said no to Elicker, the mayor reached out to University of New Haven’s President Steven Kaplan, who immediately answered yes.

Quoted in an Esquire article, Kaplan said:

“In the last twenty-five years, we’ve developed into an international powerhouse in public safety, criminal justice, fire science, forensic science. So when he (Mayor Elicker) asked me to help out with law enforcement and firefighters, it was just a natural yes.”

University of New Haven spokesperson, Doug Whiting, said, “These first responders – many of them University of New Haven alumni – are putting their lives on the line every day for all of us. Providing support for them during this crisis was simply the right thing to do. Fighting the virus requires a community effort.”

For students who still have personal belongings left in their dorm rooms, Whiting said: “We’re certainly going to be very protective of student belongings still in some rooms in the residence halls. All personal items currently in campus housing will remain safely secured in the students’ rooms. Only rooms that have been completely vacated have the potential to be used by the first responders.”

Elicker estimates space will be needed for 100 to 150 people. First responders are set to begin moving into dorms within the next few days.

On Saturday afternoon, Yale announced that the university would make 300 beds available to first responders.