Danbury’s City Shelter is more like a rehabilitation center than a place to rest one’s head. In comparison to other shelters in the area, which are solely focused on providing shelter for the night, the City Shelter offers a structured system of services to assist the process of recovering from homelessness.
According to Shelter Program Coordinator, Mike Finn, intake for the City Shelter is more extensive than other shelters. Chronically homeless people must go through the Coordinated Access Network (CAN) due to a statewide focus on getting them housed. All other applicants must get listed through 211.
The shelter then has its own intake, which asks for extensive background information including health history, education, work experience, criminal history, and veteran status. Finn said the purpose of the intake is to find out the strengths and weaknesses of the applicants so he can refer them to the resources necessary to improve their situation.
All shelters in the Danbury area allow a maximum amount of 30-days for time spent at a shelter. However, the City Shelter provides extensions for those who are either working, going to school or receiving help for their addiction.
The shelter coordinates with CT Works to help people find jobs and write resumes. A medical team and therapist comes to the shelter every Tuesday to offer services. MCCA offers an addiction recovery program during the weekend. Flu shots are provided during the flu season.
Other services that are extended to the homeless from other shelters include a place to stay from 9a.m. – 2 p.m., lunch held Mon-Fri at 12p.m., and showers.
“Danbury is one of the top areas in the state to serve homelessness. There are more services here than anywhere else,” said Finn.
“People are sent from 15 towns all around just to come here, and we have every service that they need. Sometimes we get too many people.”
Finn said for most of his life he was like everybody else. The only time he ever saw homeless people was when he stepped over them in Manhatten. One night he was walking down the street in Manhatten where a lot of people sleep on cardboard boxes, waiting for the breadline in the morning.
As he saw a homeless man approach, Finn turned to his brother and said, “Watch, he’s gonna ask you for money.” The man then approached Finn and said, “Do you have a spare ten dollars, I’m trying to get my swimming pool fixed?” Finn thought that was the funniest thing ever so he said, “Yes, you deserve the ten dollars.”
Finn thought about the man who had nothing, was about to sleep in a cardboard box, waiting for a bologna sandwich and a cup of coffee at six in the morning, but did not lose his sense of humor.
“I woke up that day. Everybody has some value in them. Homeless people are exactly that, people. Most people recognize them, don’t see them, don’t want to see them, don’t talk to them, go right by, and they’re like invisible to them,” said Finn.
“And that woke me up to people. From then on I would buy big bags of bagels, some with cream cheese, some with butter, and I would hand them out on the streets.”