Fernando (pictured), a regular visiting member of the CHD’s Hospitality Center in Waterbury, CT, recently moved into his own apartment, but he continues to come by daily to volunteer and enjoy his tea among friends.
The Center, a place where people experiencing homelessness can take care of basic needs so they can move toward stability, marked its 10th anniversary on August 26, and Fernando was glad to take part in this celebration.
John, another member, loves the comfort that the Center provides. “It’s a comfortable and safe place where I can stay cool and dry in the summer and warm in the winter,” he said. Participant Wayne appreciates being able to do laundry when he needs to. Between 60 and 80 people walk through the doors at 690 East Main Street on average every day, and many of those participants were eager to help commemorate a decade of the Center helping society’s most vulnerable members.
Also in attendance was Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary, who shared how grateful he is for an organization such as CHD that shows a deep compassion for those in need. He reflected back on the fire that devastated the center back in February of 2020, and commended Anthony Hebert, CHD’s vice president of mental health services, Hospitality Center Program Director Belinda Arce-Lopez, and the rest of the staff for their quick response in having the Center operating at another location almost immediately, providing the resources that this struggling population so desperately needs.
Connecticut State Representative Geraldo Reyes presented the Center with an official citation offering congratulations from the State General Assembly. “We need places like CHD that provide a fair shot at equitable services for everyone,” he said. A representative from Senator Chis Murphy’s office, as well as Waterbury Police Chief, Fernando Spagnolo also spoke highly of their partnership with the Center.
Most impactful however, was when the crowd got to hear from Brandon, a young man who frequents the Center. “They helped get me on my feet,” he said. “Because of them, some of us have apartments, some of us now have jobs. They even make sure we’re all out here looking fresh.” He was referring to the partnership the center has with Luis Rodriguez, better known as Hulk the Barber, who stops by the Center every other week to provide up to 10 or more haircuts to participants at no cost. “Never minimize what a haircut can do for people,” said Rodriguez. “It gives them the confidence to do things like go out and look for a job.”
The Hospitality Center is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. filling the gap in time when most shelters are closed. Participants have access to laundry, showers, food, computers, mental health and addiction groups, and more.