Wallace's Story

Fall 2023CH123_0197_Wallace.jpg

Nestled in a small corner of the Dixwell Avenue neighborhood of New Haven, Wallace’s home of two years is hardly noticeable from the street. In fact, when his case manager first suggested he take a look at it, he walked past twice before finding it. When he did find the home, he couldn’t believe he was being given the opportunity to live there.  

“I called my Case Manager right then and there. She said, ‘You like it?’ I said ‘Oh I love it.’ She said, ‘It’s yours if you want it.’ I said, ‘Definitely yes.’ I still didn’t believe it!”  

Wallace’s home is one of 11 affordable, sustainable homes designed and built in partnership with Yale School of Architecture students. Surrounded by lush landscaping – including an eco-friendly green roof – Wallace has filled the inside with plants as well, a tribute to his grandmother whom he gardened with as a child. (Take a virtual tour of Wallace's home just before construction was complete in the video below.)


The day that I moved in I bought two plants and the rest is history…I know if she [his grandmother] was here today, she would have a big smile on her face. She always told me I had a gift.”


Just like every one of the over 350 people Columbus House staff helped to find a permanent home this past year – Wallace’s journey to his little oasis is as unique as he is. 

In 2020 Wallace was happily sharing a condo with a good friend in Hamden. The two were excited about plans to move to Colorado when his friend died suddenly, drastically altering the trajectory of Wallace’s life.


“Everything in the house reminded me of him. I stopped doing everything. I got evicted. I wound up going to the hospital because I was so depressed. I really didn’t want to live anymore.”

Wallace, 63 and retired from a 30 year career in nursing, was homeless for the first time in his life. While he was in the hospital, a social worker helped him connect with Columbus House. Instead of being discharged to the streets, he moved to a hotel that Columbus House was operating with emergency pandemic funding. There, Wallace worked diligently with a housing specialist but had yet to find an affordable apartment when the hotel funding ended. He was “petrified” to learn he would have to move to our New Haven Shelter and share space with other guests, losing the privacy he had in the hotel. Thanks to the support of his case manager, Wallace spent only two weeks at the shelter before finding his new home.


“People don’t realize that it doesn’t take much to go through a little sour stuff…Things could have been worse, and I’m glad that I had a mind to hang in there…I’m grateful that I’m here.”

Wallace and his plants are thriving in his home. He enjoys visits from his mother, cooking his favorite dishes, going to church, and decorating his apartment. He’s looking forward to visiting his son in New Mexico in October.


While government grants provide the foundation for Columbus House’s myriad programs, not one is fully funded. The 2,800 single adults, youth, families with children, Veterans, and seniors we serve each year rely on the support of compassionate people like you to fill these gaps. Your contributions make it possible for someone like Wallace, a senior, to stay in the safety of our shelter and on the path to a home as opposed to the danger of the streets. 

The historical lack of investment in affordable housing and homeless services compounded by the effects of the pandemic are causing a sharp increase in homelessness. Over 3,200 people in Connecticut are on the By-Name List – the number of people known to be currently unhoused. Inflation and soaring rents are making it impossible for people living at poverty level to get ahead and many more are on the brink. A report just released by United Way of Connecticut shows that 39% of households in our state live below the income needed to afford the bare minimum essentials – like housing, food, utilities, and healthcare.* 

Your generous support is critical to ensure Columbus House’s life-saving services continue to make an impact on our most vulnerable neighbors. Will you help foster growth and independence for others like Wallace with a gift to Columbus House today?

Donate Now