Catholic Charities connects the homeless to valuable resources

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Catholic Charities of Fairfield County is a one-stop shop for homeless people seeking services in the Danbury area.

Awilda Perez is an outreach worker for Catholic Charities homeless outreach services. She has been working the program for 11 years.

awilda-perezThe program provides outreach and engagement for individuals who are homeless. Most of Perez’s clients have some type of disabling condition.

Perez helps clients to access services in the community such as food stamps, Obama phone, employment, healthcare, transportation to medical appointments, applying for benefits such as SSI or SSCI, and housing applications.

Homeless outreach helps the chronically homeless to address barriers to housing such as mental illness, substance abuse or physical disabilities.

The program intakes 150-200 clients per year. Perez usually works with clients for six to eight months.

“I think it’s a great program. I think we have been a lot of help to many clients,” said Perez.
jamellefarmerJamelle Farmer is a housing case manager for the Connecticut Collaborative on Reentry (CCR), a program that provides housing vouchers to those who are diagnosed with mental illness, served multiple incarcerations, and are chronically homeless.

The intake for the program entails a long assessment process that takes about two hours. Applicants must provide extensive background information, and work with their case managers to develop a service plan with goals that must be achieved to better their situation.

Applicants are referred to CCR through the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Housing Authority. Sex offenders are not permitted entry into the program.

Farmer has housed four people since the program was established in March of this year. Since the vouchers never expire, Farmer works with his clients for the rest of their lives or until they choose to leave the program.

If applicants are incarcerated for longer than 89 days while they are in the program, they may have their vouchers revoked.

“I love the program, and I think it’s really good. Especially with me being the case manager. I am very goal driven in trying to rehabilitate the people, and help them move past everything,” said Farmer.

“It’s a gift, it’s something I always had. Since I was younger I always wanted to help people so I do a lot of volunteer work in the community.”
sierrapepiSierra Pepi is the Program Coordinator for the Morning Glory Breakfast program and the Morning Glory Marketplace.

The Morning Glory Breakfast program delivers a hot meal seven days a week to the homeless and financially disadvantaged in Danbury.

The meals are held at the Dorothy Day Hospitality House from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Morning Glory tries to provide a healthy meal so they usually provide eggs, pancakes and foods with low fat or sugar.

The Morning Glory Marketplace is a non-food pantry, which offers cleaning supplies and hygiene products to those who are housed but are in need of assistance. The marketplace is held on the first and third Friday of each month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the New Heights facility on West Street.

Supplies from the pantry as well as the food from the soup kitchen are donated. Pepi talks to schools, youth groups, and churches all year round to try to get people to donate to the program.

“We’re open to everybody, and that’s pretty much it. Everybody is welcome to come,” said Pepi.

Off the Streets houses the working homeless

 

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Many working people are homeless simply because they can’t come up with a security deposit. Off the Streets is a spin-off of the Dorothy Day House that was established to get people with a source of income out of the shelters and into housing.

The program was initiated by middle school students and has now boasts four chapters, two in Conn., one in Penn., and one in Calif.

In the eight years since the program was established, Off the Streets has helped 1,500 people get into housing.

According to the Administrator, Joe Simons, the program is constantly looking for ways to expand the operation because the concept can be applied in any community.

“It’s simply that there are a lot of people out there who are homeless, not because they don’t have income, but because they can’t get over the initial hurdle which is the security deposit,” said Simons.

“So we provide that, and also some furniture and basic household goods for when they move int because a lot of time when they move in they have nothing.”

The program collects furniture the first Saturday every month from 10 a.m. to Noon behind the First Methodist Church in Bethel.

Anybody who wants to donate small table and chairs, twin beds, chest of drawers and other basic necessities or money to help pay security deposits can visit the website at http://offthestreetsnow.com/ for contact information.

deacon-olesThe program’s founder, Deacon Mike Oles, was a volunteer at the Dorothy Day House who is often asked to speak about homelessness to religious education groups at middle schools. He brings homeless people to his sessions to add a face to the concept he is addressing.

During one of Oles’ sessions in Norwalk, the students were so taken by the homeless person who tagged along that they decided to take up a collection to get the man out of the shelter and into housing. The man was a hard worker who simply needed a security deposit.

Students continued pestering Deacon Oles about when he was going to get the man housed. At that time, Oles had mostly worked with people in the shelter, but had no experience with getting people housed.

Deacon Oles eventually used the money to pay the security deposit. And after that, another collection was taken, and another. Oles finally realized he could do this as a program, which turned into a separate mission from the Dorothy Day House.

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Susan Pagan got involved with Off the Streets due to  her platform in pageantry, which is centered on reaching out to the homeless, refugees, and those living in compromised conditions.

Pagan travels with her husband throughout the world on mission trips reaching out to those in need, but she wanted to do more. She was introduced to Off the Streets through a friend. After reading Oles’ book, she contacted him and they developed a plan to have her as a spokesperson for Off the Streets.

She recently shared her story at the Bridgeport chapter fundraising event on Oct.1, and also attended the Danbury chapter fundraising event on the same evening.

In the coming months, she will focus on trying to get more areas to sign on with chapters. Pagan is determined to travel and speak to congregations or groups of people to encourage them to start a chapter of Off the Streets in their own communities.

Pagan is passionate about helping those who are struggling with homelessness because she emerged from a similar situation where she did not have a place to call home for many years.

“I would like to tell readers that it is very simple to begin a chapter of Off the Streets in your own communities because it literally takes no money to start and there is no overhead, no employees, no office spaces, etc.,” said Pagan.

“Everyone and anyone can help, and finally… never take your home for granted.”