According to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, there were nearly 11,000 people who experienced homelessness in Connecticut last year. Multiple organizations spend countless hours trying to make a difference -- and now, in New Haven, there’s a new program with a slightly different approach.
The focus is on music.
The program is called Musical Intervention -- a new organization that uses music to inspire and help people in the New Haven community who are struggling with various challenges. It’s the creation of 32-year-old Adam Christoferson.
Christoferson talked about a song he co-wrote with a guy named Roger, who he calls one of the locals.
"He's got really long hair, and a long beard, and he talks like he’s drunk, but he’s not," Christoferson said. "It turned out he got put away back in the '70s. They put him in a straightjacket, and they experimented with all kinds of treatments that they had back then, and that’s why he talks the way he does. That’s probably a major contributing factor to the condition that he lives in."
Christoferson has taken his training in recreation therapy, his passion for helping people, and his love of music to a whole new level. He’s just opened the doors to a downtown recording studio and community performing area through the city’s Project Storefronts, a program that helps artists test the viability of new arts-related businesses.
Musical Intervention’s mission is to inspire people to learn and grow by helping them write, record, and perform original songs. They hold regular walk-in hours, and Christoferson works with other organizations to get the word out about Musical Intervention's services. The intervention comes through facilitators Christoferson recruited, and partnerships he developed to get people the help they need.
Christoferson said he was able to help "one person get their identification, another person a shower yesterday. I mean, these are people that wouldn’t even want the help, because of the layers of experience that they’ve known."
Kathryn Jupiter, 23, has been homeless for a year. She met Christoferson five months ago at the Sunrise Cafe in New Haven, a breakfast program on the ground floor of St. Paul and St. James Episcopal Church.
Christoferson got Jupiter to sing, which she didn’t know she could do. Then he helped her get her ID and a Social Security card. Now she’s looking for a job.
"Music helps you think more," Jupiter said. "It like clears your mind. It goes with your mood, that helps me a lot."
Jupiter is shy and quiet. She said she was afraid to sing in front of people. But Musical Intervention has changed that. She’s been part of several public performances with Christoferson, and she recently recorded two original songs.
Christoferson continues to bring his music workshops to those suffering with addiction, mental illness, and homelessness through social service organizations around the state. He’s no stranger to hardship. You could say he’s grown up with it. Christoferson has watched his mother struggle with mental illness. His father is a disabled Vietnam War veteran. He said that’s his norm.
"You know, sometimes I’m even a little more uncomfortable with people who aren’t struggling with those things," he said.
Opening the doors to the program was just the beginning. Christoferson has more plans.
"Ideally, I’d like to get a social worker in here and a case manager," he said. "I would love to be working with clients throughout the day to help them express themselves in music, but also run different programs… life skills, things like that, so that we can get them prepared for different things."
Musical Intervention is operating on a shoestring budget through grants and an active GoFundMe donation campaign.
The space on Temple Street in New Haven is open and inviting. There’s a piano, guitars, and amplifiers with multiple seating arrangements and a stage with benches set up — waiting for an audience.