Leaders of a Yale University orientation program are apologizing for participants who helped clear a homeless encampment, which they call an act of "violence."
A group of students in Yale’s community service-driven FOCUS program were assigned to help the New Haven Department of Parks and Trees to collect litter in the city. On Aug. 24, a department supervisor had students remove clothes and other debris from a homeless encampment the group said had been "forcibly evacuated" by police.
Upon discovering the atrocity, FOCUS pulled students from the site and terminated its partnership with the Department of Parks and Trees. On Wednesday, the program’s student leaders issued a statement of apology, telling the Yale Daily News they had committed "violence" and "theft" against the "unhoused."
"This sort of violence—‘cleaning up after the cops’ and theft of unhoused people’s homes and belongings—is antithetical to the values of FOCUS," the statement said.
Yale’s Dwight Hall Center for Public Service and Social Justice, which runs the orientation program, backed the student leaders’ decision. According to Dwight Hall executive director Peter Crumlish, the group is working to "understand the impact of the situation and to help students reflect on the experience."
Liberals in recent years have agitated against clearing homeless encampments in U.S. cities. Democrats in Maryland supported a bill this year to bar police from clearing the encampments. Officials in Berkeley, Calif., refused to clean up homeless camps for most of the pandemic, beginning the effort only after 75 tons of garbage, human waste, and drug paraphernalia had been left behind.