WALLINGFORD — He is the man on the median, often seen waving a cardboard sign amid rush-hour traffic on Route 5. Every so often, he makes his way through cars waiting for the green light between Sonic and IHOP to collect money from a motorist.
Standing at one of the busiest intersections on Route 5 during the busiest time of the day for at least several months, the man is a mystery to local officials. Police don’t know him, nor do any local social service agencies contacted for this story.
Approached while standing on the median Thursday, the man said his name was Jack Dalton. He had a pail containing a pair of jeans and a sleeping bag. Dalton, a heavyset man with long hair and a gray beard, said he was “desperate to make some money.”
Dalton said he lives in the woods. Until recently, he had a tent, but “someone destroyed the tent,” he said. Later in the conversation, Dalton said he planned to take the 6:23 p.m. bus to New Haven and added that he takes the bus from New Haven to Wallingford almost daily.
Dalton said he had been looking for donations in Derby for nearly two years until he was forced to leave. He estimates he has been coming to Wallingford for the past six months.
Dalton has no criminal record in Wallingford, said Lt. Marc Mikulski. Dalton would only be breaking the law if he interrupted traffic, he said.
“I know that people have dropped off groceries and one person even offered him a job, but he declined,” Mikulski said.
The town’s Youth and Social Services Department has no file on Dalton. While an invitation has been extended, Dalton has never been to Master’s Manna, a local food pantry, said Cheryl Trzcinski, the pantry’s executive director.
Thomas Thurber, executive director of the Wallingford Emergency Shelter, said he has never seen him at the shelter.
Dry Dock Executive Director Rich Figlewski said he hasn’t met Dalton, but has been asked about him.
“I’ve gotten a lot of comments from people on how it’s a scam,” he said.
Several people screamed obscenities at Dalton while he stood on the median Thursday, urging him to “get a job.” Dalton said he is often threatened by people.
Thomas Holton, of Bristol, works in Wallingford but doesn’t usually use travel the section of Route 5 where Dalton spends time. On Thursday afternoon, Holton said, he was exploring Route 5 when he drove past Dalton. After he saw Dalton’s sign, Holton said, he thought to himself, “I’ve got to turn around to give him something.”
Holton gave Dalton everything in his pocket, which amounted to $13.
“I get paid tomorrow,” Holton said. “I can do without $13. I figured for him, it would be a big deal.”