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Christopher Zajac Record-Journal
Some homeless people have put up tents in the woods on Southington town property, Jan. 31, 2014. Some locals have tried to reach out to the homeless population to get them out of the tents and into shelters during the very cold nights. | Christopher Zajac / Record-Journal

A resident of Southington’s homeless camp speaks out

SOUTHINGTON — Brian Davis was sleeping outside on a piece of cardboard in September but says his situation has improved. He now spends his nights in a sleeping bag and tent in the woods near the linear trail.

Davis left his house, his job at Altec Electronics in Torrington and a bad relationship six months ago. He returned to Southington where he hopes to start fresh

“This is my hometown, this is where I want to live,” he said.

Davis, 58, is one of two people living in a homeless camp on public land near the Farmington Canal linear trail. He and Annie Gray, a member of the First Congregational Church who helps him, say there’s a need for more social services.

Janet Mellon, town Community Services director, said there is help for anyone who requests it. Community Services workers deliver food and other supplies to homeless camps. Transportation is provided to area shelters or hotels.

“We got to them. We get in a van and we go to them,” Mellon said.

Community Services has offices at 91 Norton St., about three miles from the linear trail camp. Gray said it’s difficult for Davis and others to get to the help they need.

She became aware of Southington’s homeless when Davis began volunteering at the church. The two became acquainted and Gray has helped Davis get a haircut, new clothes and other necessities.

“I didn’t know we had a homeless population,” Gray said.

Mellon has worked with the town’s homeless for 13 years and said getting them into apartments or jobs is a long process. Community Services worked with one man for five years before getting him an apartment and disability payments. Davis has no intention of going to a shelter. They’re dangerous and unhealthy, he said. He’s warm enough at night in his sleeping bag and tent.

“I’m not asking for help in the sense they mean,” Davis said of Community Services. “I need a job. Once I can get a job I can get an address.”

Without an address, signing up for services is difficult. He was able to get health insurance using the address of Community Services. He’s working on applying for SNAP food benefits as well.

About six years ago Davis was homeless in Southington. At that time he slept in abandoned factories but was kicked out for trespassing. The town doesn’t mind him and others in the woods, but the spot he’s camped in will flood with the spring thaw and they will probably have to move.

Town Manager Garry Brumback said the homeless are allowed to stay on public land as long as they’re not breaking laws.

Davis’ campsite includes a fire pit. Small, contained warming fires are allowed, according to fire officials.

Davis’ main need now, he said, is a job. Despite his training in the electronics field and experience in construction, a criminal record and his age make it difficult.

“I’m willing to work to get out of the hole I’m in,” Davis said. “I do need someone to step and say, “I’ve got work for you.”

An older member of the Congregational church offered him lawn care work in the spring.

“I might be able to get a business out of that,” Davis said.

Mellon said the town is starting a mentoring program for the homeless, a plan that was in place months before the town’s homeless population began to get more attention. The program is being started with the help of the Southington Interfaith Clergy Association.

“If they want long-term help, that’s what we’re there for. If its short-term help they want, that’s what we’re here for,” Mellon said. (203)317-2230 Twitter: @JBuchananRJ

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