The Waterbury Republican-American newspaper recently interviewed Paul Tang, CHD director of Adult Mental Health (AMH)-Connecticut, and Dana Mihaylo, program manager for AMH-Connecticut, as well as Jose Consepsion, one of the individuals served in our agency’s supportive housing programs in Torrington, CT.
The story is below:
Torrington Grant Helps with Basic Needs
BY SLOAN BREWSTER
TORRINGTON – Eight hundred dollars may not seem like a lot of money, but a grant that size brought food and clothes to some folks who needed them.
This month, the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation awarded CHD Torrington an $800 grant through the Foundation’s Marion Wm. & Alice Edwards Fund.
The money was distributed to CHD clients through gift cards to assist them in getting basic needs such as coats and groceries.
Many of CHD’s clients are homeless or have nothing, Dana Mihaylo, program manager, said.
Often they have dual issues, meaning they are dealing with homelessness and addiction or mental health disorders, said Paul Tang, CHD director for Adult Mental Health-Connecticut.
Getting basic needs to these individual is crucial, Mihaylo and Tang said.
“It makes a big difference; it’s stuff that nobody thinks about,” Mihaylo said. “That kind of money right there could help at least six or seven people just to have the bare essentials that we don’t even consider (not having).”
Jose Consepsion, 63, is one of the clients who received a gift card. Formerly homeless and an alcoholic, he said he has been sober for 10 years.
Consepsion said he was beaten and left for dead in New Haven, where he was raised. The ordeal left him in a coma.
After he recovered, he relocated to Torrington, where he has been for 10 years. When he first arrived in the city, he stayed at Friends in Service to Humanity of Northwestern Connecticut, known as FISH.
Now he lives on his own.
Consepsion repeatedly expressed gratitude for everything CHD does for him, including helping him get a new coat and groceries with his gift cards. He could not stop talking about how helpful CHD has been to him.
“Thank God I have a roof over my head and I’ve got some honest people in my life,” he said.
Consepsion said his goal is to learn to read and write and get his high school diploma.
“I’m trying to make something of myself,” he said.
Mihaylo said Consepsion’s appreciation was “heartwarming.” She said he has come a long way since joining the CHD family. She also shared a story about how staff had to get him another coat when they noticed his was missing. Turned out he had given it to someone he met on his way home one day because the person had nothing on but a T-shirt.
“He’s also one of those gentlemen who will give you the shirt off his back,” Mihaylo said. “He thought they needed it so he gave it away and he wasn’t even going to tell us because he thought we were going to be mad.”
Tang said the application for the grant was specifically written with the idea of funneling the money to individuals and that it could not have come at a better time. The holidays, he said, can bring up dark emotions for the population served by CHD.
“They think of loss, regret; there’s increased substance abuse and self-harm,” he said. “It’s not all roses.”
But getting somebody connected with food, pants and a coat, can really help.
Tang and Mihaylo described scenarios of individuals living in shelters or even tents and having nothing but the clothes on their backs. Mihalyo spoke of a client who only had a pair of work boots and walked everywhere in them to the point he developed painful sores on his feet.
The sneakers he got with one of the gift cards are helping to solve the problem.
Julie Scharnberg, vice president of community engagement at Northwest Community Foundation said she was pleased when she learned CHD had applied for a grant. She said the organization “provides wonderful services.”
“They touch a population that’s pretty specific and that we don’t really interact with much to date,” Scharnberg said.