Stories Of Hope . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Felice knows a nomadic lifestyle all too well having grown up in DCF’s foster care system. Now a single mom, she is determined that her toddler son Michael has a better childhood. But last year her minimum-wage job barely covered expenses. Michael’s daycare fees, even at sliding scale, ate up a huge chunk of her income. A series of unsuccessful home-sharing arrangements kept her moving from place to place. Then one day at her wits end, Felice showed up at the Friendship Center’s emergency shelter with Michael and a few of their belongings in tow. At first having a safe place to live and healthy food brought them both a sense of security they hadn’t known for a long time. After a couple of months Felice found a better job through Connecticut Works. Her shelter case manager helped her find safe, affordable permanent housing and a pre-school where Michael could thrive. Today Michael and his mom live in their own apartment, and they receive continued case management services from the Friendship Center’s supportive housing staff. Michael is a well-adjusted four-year-old and loves to show off his room. Felice smiles now when you see her. She walks proud and tall.
A Veteran hobbled by a drug addiction and a felony on his record doesn’t find work easily or keep a job for long. Unemployed and with no place to live, Vern turned to the Friendship Service Center for a place to stay, food to eat and help in slaying his substance abuse demons. That was six months ago. In that time Vern has gone on a couple of drinking binges, but that was early on. His case manager says that in all her experience she has never met anyone with Vern’s persistence for finding employment. He has come very close a few times to landing a job, but he keeps pressing forward. Vern has also applied for a VASH Housing Certificate which is available to Veterans, and that situation looks hopeful. In the meantime, Vern volunteers in the community kitchen at the Friendship Center where he looks out for his fellow Veterans. He washes tables, mops floors and helps out in the kitchen. Vern will do absolutely anything to be of service.
Growing up, Simon’s family ran a small bakery business in Puerto Rico. But when it came time for Simon to either choose to become a baker himself or come to the United States, he followed his wanderlust. At first he settled in with cousins in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and then later followed seasonal work in the tobacco fields around Hartford. That’s about as much as Simon can recall of his early years. Mental illness robbed him of his ability to work, and family ties both here and in his native Puerto Rico became frayed. Language barriers, unemployment and inattention to medical needs contribute to Simon being chronically homeless. He eats at least one good meal at noon during the week at the Friendship Center’s community kitchen. The rest of the time he gets by, but nobody really knows how. He sometimes asks for a bed in the Friendship Center’s emergency shelter in the heat of summer and on the coldest of winter days. The PATH outreach staff at the Friendship Center does what she can to offer friendship and assistance. There are a couple of soup kitchen regulars he feels comfortable sitting with, but he mostly stays to himself. Simon refers to the staff and volunteers at the soup kitchen as his family and the emergency shelter his home.
*Names and images have been changed to protect confidentiality