Thursday, December 9, 2021
HomeNewsHaddam Town NewsHaddam's Hidden Homeless

Haddam’s Hidden Homeless

By Kathy Brown.

In a town like Haddam, we don’t see the homeless on the street asking for money, we don’t see them in the center of town, huddled in the doorway of a store. So there must not be a problem. In fact, we do have homeless people here in town. Jessica Condil, Haddam Social Services Director, has one homeless person in Haddam who she is working with right now. Jessica is also working with five individual men and one woman who are facing foreclosure, with the possibility of homelessness in the near future. It could be due to job loss, the death of a family member, domestic violence, or mental illness. Since she has been working at Social Services, she has dealt with six families, some with children, who have become homeless. “When we have homeless in Haddam, they stay in abandoned properties, or they sleep in their vehicle in our forest if they have one,” explained Jessica. “Or they sleep in a tent or some sort of shelter in the woods. If they have friends in town they go from one couch to the other until someone takes them in.”

For those facing homelessness, Jessica recommends them to Youth and Family Services of Haddam Killingworth for the opportunity to receive counseling, and finds resources to assist them in their needs.

Jessica gives the homeless food, blankets, and clothing from the social service department. “Due to the limited amount of resources we have, I look to outside resources not in our community,” said Jessica. “In some instances I am able to get the state social services involved to assist. In many cases the state is not able to assist. I then find them resources in Middletown, such as behavioral health services, shelters, and soup kitchens, homeless ministry’s, women shelters, and any service I think can be of service to them.”

Over the holidays, Jessica volunteered with the Brown Bag Angels, and learned even more about the homeless in our area. The Brown Bag Angels was started by Brynn Nelson, who lives in East Haddam, and is a member of Valley Bible here in Haddam. When asked about her group, Brynn said, “God put it on my heart 10 months ago to go hand out brown bag lunches to the homeless in Middletown.  In time we have grown to become an unofficial group who have affectionately been called The Brown Bag Angels; a name we have proudly adopted.”

Lunches ready for delivery on Tuesday
She quickly learned that homelessness isn’t what she expected. She went on to explain, “There are several forms of homelessness such as people living from friend to friend’s houses, in abandoned properties, cars, shelters, tents, under bridges, and directly on the street.  There are many reasons they have encountered this situation. For some, it is due to substance abuse; however, there are many other reasons we have encountered.  Some were evicted, foreclosed on, major medical issues resulting in large bills, family discourse, loss of a family member, escaping abuse, mental illness, job loss, etc.”
If you are homeless in our area (Haddam, East Haddam, and other rural areas), there are limited to no resources. “Once you have officially become homeless, without an address, many of the state and town funded assistance no longer applies to you as you must provide a local address,” explained Brynn. “This forces many to have to go to Middletown.   This means that people who have lived their entire lives in these towns relocate to a place where there are shelters, soup kitchens, public transportation, medical care, and any other assistance they can get.”
And in winter, it can be especially dangerous to be homeless. “The subfreezing temperatures cause those who don’t have a permanent home to be put in the elements. Those who are lucky enough to get into a shelter typically are not allowed in during the day; it is for sleeping and bathing only,” explained Brynn. “On a cold day, they would have to find other options to stay warm. They are typically only allowed to stay for 30 nights in the shelters, and then they must leave. If you don’t stay in a shelter, you may go to a warming center. These warming centers are not open every evening in the winter, but rather during the coldest of temperatures. If they are lucky enough to get a bus pass, an option not all have, it is common to ride the bus the entire day just to stay warm.”
We asked Brynn for examples of some of the homeless that she encounters in Middletown, so we could get a better sense of the individuals.
Sarah, 52, gave up her job to care for a family member with a debilitating illness.  Although she didn’t get paid for this she did get her needs met by the spouse of the family member working to support the household.  After a few years the spouse began to abuse Sarah, by the tenth year she finally decided to escape.  She took whatever she could fit in her bag and went to the streets.   She is in a shelter at night and her case worker is working on helping her get an apartment.  She struggles to find work due to the ten year gap in employment on her resume.  She volunteers at a local facility while trying to find work.  She is kind, gentle, and appreciates good conversation and a good lunch on Tuesdays with The Brown Bag Angels.  She prays with them and she prays for them.

Mark, 67, approaches the group for a lunch.  When he is offered prayer he is surprised, drops to his knees and weeps.  After the prayer, I helped him up and he told me he planned to take his own life that night, but now he wasn’t sure.  Ten months later, he shows up faithfully every week and even helps out from time to time.  In time we learned that Mark was a Vietnam veteran who suffered a brain injury in the war.  Due to the injury he has been considered disabled.  He has a small apartment but not much else.  Ends don’t quite meet right now and he gets lonely.  He comes for food, prayer,  and lunch.

Joseph, 72, left his meager life in Delaware to come live with his adult son in Connecticut.  Joseph had COPD and breathing is a struggle.  His son committed to caring for him.  Joseph and his son had an argument resulting in his son kicking him out of the house.  He is now on the street in the winter, in a state he is unfamiliar with.  Joseph ran into The Brown Bag Angels on the street.  He is thankful for the prayer, food, and toiletries provided to him.  He is looking for a safe place to rest his head.

One of the struggles the homeless face is keeping your feet and clothes warm, clean and dry. Brynn explains, “Those who live in a shelter or on the street have nowhere to keep items like groceries or extra clothing except what they can carry with them. If they are lucky enough to get SNAP or canned goods, there really isn’t a place to keep the items. They aren’t able to prepare meals and most eat the processed prepared items or what they can fit in their backpack. This sometimes means choosing between your gloves and socks for another day and something to eat for later. While at the shelter, someone may take everything you own; then you have to start over, collecting clothing, etc. Another struggle is finding a place to go to the bathroom or take a shower. In Middletown there is a health clinic open during the day and restrooms are open to the public, but there isn’t a good option here in Haddam.

St. Vincent and other soup kitchens help feed people as much as they can. “Our group gives a brown bag lunch once a week for them to carry in their bag or to wherever they end up,” said Brynn. “We also provide a hot beverage to help them warm up in the winter, and a frozen treat to cool off in the summer. Thanks to the help of donations, we have been able to assist in providing warm layers, coats, socks, hats, gloves, hand warmers, toiletries, bags, Bibles, and food to help whenever we can.”

If you would like to donate items for the Brown Bag Angels, donations can be brought to the Haddam Social Services (11 Jail Hill Road, Haddam). Items needed are: napkins, brown paper bags, plastic sandwich bags, plastic spoons, individually wrapped snacks such as potato chips and granola bars, mayonnaise, mustard, grocery store giftcards, hand warmers, toiletries/feminine products, and bottled water.

If you would like more information or would like to donate your time, please contact Brynn at thebrownbagangels@gmail.com.

Photo by Brynn Nelson.

1 COMMENT

  1. I grew up on a CT farm after WWII. On the farm were 2 “Shacks,” each with a bed, a chair, a pot belly stove and a few utensils. Hobos as we called them, came and went. They were homeless and perhaps suffering from PTSD from the war. While we grew tobacco, we also had farm animals so they had milk, eggs and vegetables. Any money probably ended up at the local package store. They stayed a few weeks or a season working on the farm. Then they were gone. My father had a good heart. Thank you Jessica, Brynn and Youth & Family Services for all you do and for your inspiration. Thank you Kathy for a great article.

Comments are closed.

Must Read