Sal gets his normal life

hc-op-campbell-get-chronically-homeless-off-st-001That’s what he called it, Sal Pinna, a man who’d been homeless for 20 years. He called the life the rest of us live a normal life, which meant — for him — a kitchen and a television and a door he could lock behind him. Oh, and a television not ruled by other shelter guests, but by him, with his own remote.

“When am I going to have my normal life?” he’d ask me, and I didn’t know enough to tell him “April 23, dude. You’ll get it April 23.”

Through the work and dedication of some incredible people, Sal got his normal life on April 23, and I wrote about it  wrote here for the Hartford Courant. The column will run Sunday, and I will get credit for  housing Sal, when really, all I did was dog him for five months. The people who should get the credit are the Fabulous Sara Capen Salomons, of Journey Home, the lead agency on Greater Hartford’s 100-day challenge to end chronic homelessness; the Tireless Sarah Simonelli, of Chrysalis Center, and the Never-Say-Die Nate Fox, Center Church‘s Warburton Director of Outreach Ministries. They were the ones who helped Sal through the byzantine system to the point where he could sign a lease on a one-bedroom apartment in Hartford, and move in.

The photos were taken by Jon Olson, whom I’ve known for decades as one of the most soulful shooters, ever. He contacted me after the first few stories about Sal ran on WNPR, and asked if he could take some pictures. For free. Jon’s a freelancer, and freelancers often work for peanuts, but Jon’s work is at a level where the non-profit organizations involved in the 100-day challenge couldn’t afford him. He’s that good. When I told him he was nuts, he replied that he and his son, Milo, volunteer to make sandwiches at a local shelter, and to him, this was just one more way to give back.

Sal opened right up to Jon. Sal even let Jon follow him to where he was sleeping rough — this when Sal wouldn’t tell me squat, and I  knew Sal longer.

I hope this helps you understand that homelessness is preventable, and getting people into housing makes all the difference, for them, and for us.

IMG_3157One last thing. Jon took that incredible photo up top. Sara Salomons took the photo on the left, just a couple of weeks later. Different guy, right? Note that Sal, who is a dude, is holding his remote. In his normal life, he can watch what he wants to watch. In his normal life, he can sit on his charcoal gray couch and enjoy some solitude, and lock the door behind him.

One last thing, for real: I have a story running on WNPR’s “Where We Live” on Monday at 9 a.m., or thereabouts, about Sal, and about how we got here with homelessness. Call in!  Heckle!

Published by datingjesus

Just another one of God's children.

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  1. Don’t underestimate your contribution. Or I’ll get all mushy and crap.

    I’d be dead right now if I had not found shelter here. My benefactors will try and shrug off their contribution and it gets me all mushy and crap… which can be a rather disgusting experience. It hasn’t been easy on them. (You know me…) So…you know…don’t underestimate your contribution.

    1. My contribution in any social change will always be hounding. That is my talent. That is my skill. And your housemates are lucky to have you, you asshole.

      1. Oh…I don’t know about lucky……..
        I have raised their Coffee Consciousness a bit, however self-serving that might be.
        But I’m the lucky one.

        1. Don’t sell your contributions short, my friend. I am stealing that idea from someone else. I have no original thought.

          1. Aw, just stop you two! You both are awesome people, and we are all lucky to have you part of this world. End. Of. Story. (No, no, no…don’t you think about saying anything back at me.)

            Sal’s story is such a great one! And to think, about 99 similar stories will be out there by the end of the 100 days…it’s really amazing and wonderful! I suppose the next step is to keep housing people in a more rapid way than pre-100 day challenge.

            I look forward to hearing more about Sal.

    1. Yes, this Monday. Sal was referring to the last of the series of stories on the 100-day challenge, which will run in June. Sal will be in the studio for that one.

  2. And….for all you Sal fans out there –
    Thursday evening at 7pm, at Charter Oak Cultural Center,
    Sal will be performing (I heard him rehearsing) at BOTS Center for Creative Learning Graduation. Sal IS a graduate of the C4CL program; and he is on the program for 5 new graduates. There’ll be lots of mushy and crap.
    Oh, and cake!

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