Today on WNPR’s “Where We Live” program, I got to report that Sal Pinna, a 52-year old man who’s been on the streets for something like 20 years, just got a housing voucher as part of Hartford’s 100-day challenge to greatly reduce chronic homelessness. [If you hit the “Where We Live” link above, Sal’s story starts at about 35 minutes, That’s Sal pictured above, after he got the news last week that he would be housed. He’s hugging the fabulous Sara Capen Salomons, one of those activists who Does. Not. Quit.] And thank you, Nate Fox, for being on the show, and also for being another one of those activists who Does. Not. Quit.
Right after the program aired, Sarah Simonelli, of Chrysalis Center, took Sal to look at apartments, and he loved the first one he saw, a one-bedroom centrally located on a bus line. The apartment is being readied now, and he could move in as early as next week. He’s promised to give me a tour.
Chrysalis Center has stipends for recently-housed people, who, like Sal, are basically moving in with whatever bags they’ve been carrying around homeless. In Sal’s case, that’s a backpack that weighs roughly 45 pounds (I know. I lifted it this morning.). No furniture, no kitchenware, no linens, nothing.
I don’t know how far the funds go, but feel free to think about any extra stuff you might have that Sal — or someone like him — could use. I’ve started what I’m calling a Sal Pile (a name that makes Sal giggle). The goal is to house 100 people housed by June 19. That’s a lot of Sals, and a lot of kitchenware, linens, etc.
So this is a happy ending, so far, though Sal has a lot of work to do. I know him. He’ll do it.
I met Sal and Sarah Simonelli for lunch afterward, and he was wearing his favorite Batman jacket. It’s pretty ratty. He’s been sleeping outside since March 31, when the no-freeze shelter where he was staying closed. He won’t come inside, though I told him I very much wish he would. He’s waiting to move into his full-time, real-live apartment this next week. I’m hoping his luck holds and he’s able to take care of himself outside a few more days.
To celebrate, I went to pick up the grandbabies (twins who are nearly 4) for a sleep-over. We came to my house, and we were outside in the spring sun playing with their new golf clubs (Hey! We’re Scottish. Start ’em early, I say.). I had my back turned when a plastic bag of…something…landed in my yard. My neighbor had been cleaning up the winter flotsam and for a minute I thought, “Why would he throw his crap over here?”
But it wasn’t that neighbor. It was Vinnie (honest to God; that’s his name), a kid who lives next door with whom I once had deep conversations I enjoyed very much, but then he grew up and that, as they say, was that. I’ve made efforts, but nope.
Vinnie had heard the grandbabies outside (they’re not quiet) and run inside to get some of his old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spiderman figures. These two entities — along with Bathman and Wonder Woman — pretty much form the core of my grandchildren’s lives, and they stood with their mouths open as Vinnie explained he thought they could enjoy the figures as he is now, you know, in sixth grade and stuff. With his own cell phone. And he walks from the bus stop, too. He’s matured.
That’s a direct quote.
I was so happy about this gift that I nearly hugged him, but he’s, you know, in sixth grade and stuff, so instead I thanked him profusely for his generosity and the kids are going to make him a card.
So now I’m sitting in my little bungalow with the grandbabies, who insisted on coming inside to play with their loot. I’m feeling just really awesome about the world. I mean, really.