Newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

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Archbishop's Desk

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  • On receiving the pallium

    On June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, I was blessed to receive from the hands of...

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Milestones

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  • Franciscan friars merge provinces

    ELLICOTT CITY, Md. – The Franciscan Friars at St. Paul Parish in Kensington took part in a little...

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Youth

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  • Youth event to focus on theme of ‘Working in the Vineyard’

    BLOOMFIELD – Applications are being accepted for the 2014 Catholic Youth Spectacular set for...

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HARWINTON – Few of us ever think of ourselves as privileged. Until we’re not.

The last light to go out during storm Alfred was the LED digital clock on our DVD player. For half a second after the rest of the house was plunged into darkness on the evening of Oct. 29, the DVD clock glowed 8:32.

My wife Jean and I hunkered down for the night with extra blankets, satisfied that we were as ready as we could be. We had done the laundry; charged the cell phones; and filled jugs with water and cars with gas. We had candles, canned food, flashlights.

Darkness? Bring it on.

But temperatures plunged. Wind whistled. Wet snow bent the lilac and magnolia and cracked the maple.

In the morning, as I gazed at more than 20 inches of snow, I said, "We can’t stay here."

"But there’s no power anywhere."

I bit my lip. "There are ... shelters."

Neither of us liked the idea. Shelters were for ... others. Besides, when I dialed 211 to find the nearest one, I was on hold so long that I had to hang up to preserve my cell phone charge. We turned on the radio and learned that a makeshift shelter was being set up near our home.

A cheerful young woman answered the door, wearing an EMT jumpsuit with a holster for her two-way radio.

"Oh, hi," I said, "our power is out and our house is freezing. Can we hang here for a while?"

"Absolutely!" the woman said. She showed us into a large, open room that was warm and bright, powered by a gasoline generator outside that sounded like an 18-wheeler downshifting for a hill.

A family of four sat at a table, playing Trivial Pursuit. "How many minor league home runs did Babe Ruth hit?" the questioner asked.

An elderly foursome swapped sections of the Sunday paper bearing headlines about the storm’s devastation. I helped a volunteer unfold portable cots. By nightfall, 19 cots had been arranged in rows, as more people, young and old, showed up. Many of us had brought food to contribute to a supper, prepared by the EMT woman and other volunteers.

It all sounds homey and comfy. It is not. There is nothing homey or comfy about being away from your comfortable home, even if home is a small ranch house.

The cots were made of polyester fabric supported by tubular steel and aluminum. They don’t exactly have "sleep numbers" for comfort. The metal tubes bruise your ankles, butt and neck.

At one point, I may have been the only person awake, listening to 18 others snoring in their unique styles. One man sounded like a woodpecker on a hollow apple tree. Another sounded like someone dragging a chair across a cement floor. One woman’s explosive exhalations were like a steam release valve.

How we could sleep at all is a mystery. Elderly hard-of-hearing people stayed up late talking in what they thought were whispers; people two towns away may now know intimate details about their surgeries. The EMT’s squawk box kept rasping about trees down on nearby roads. And the generator kept up a constant growl.

Nobody would possibly want to live in a shelter night after night.

And yet: In Connecticut, on Jan. 27, 2011, there were 3,770 people staying in shelters, according to the annual Point in Time snapshot of homelessness, reported by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH). About 42 percent of these people – which included 496 adults with families and 800 children in families – had never before been homeless. For the year 2010, more than 11,000 people, including more than 1,500 children, spent some time in shelters in Connecticut.

Rent problems, family disputes and domestic violence accounted for about 88 percent of homelessness, but they were not the only causes. They certainly were not the reasons that my wife and I and 17 other people slept on those backbreaking cots on the night before Halloween.

But, as inconvenient as shelters are, they sure beat freezing on the streets or in unheated homes. That’s why a number of shelters in Connecticut receive assistance from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, including the Immaculate Conception Shelter, Mercy Housing & Shelter and South Park Inn-Homeless Shelter, all in Hartford; Samaritan Shelter in Manchester; St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Shelter in Bristol and Waterbury; Winchester Emergency Shelter in Winsted; Beth-El Shelter in Milford; Columbus House in New Haven; Shelter NOW in Meriden; and others.

They literally save lives.

But one night was enough for us. A nearby motel had power restored the next night, and there we at least had the added comforts of a hot shower and privacy (but, frankly, not much else). The night after that, a family member got power back and invited us in.

Finally, just 90 hours after our DVD clock faded out, our lights came on. The furnace hummed to life. The refrigerator purred. The dishwasher and washing machine caught up on their assignments.

Once again, we were among the privileged. Only this time, we knew it.

Oh, and Babe Ruth hit only one minor league home run. Amazing, the stuff you learn in a shelter.

 Jack Sheedy is the News Editor of The Catholic Transcript and lives in Litchfield County.

Events Calendar

August 2014
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1
2
05:15 PM
Savin Rock Conference Center, West Haven, West Haven Ct
Credo Catholic Singles, a community of single, widowed and divorced Catholics from throughout the [...]
06:00 PM
New Haven Green, New Haven, United States
NEW HAVEN – The New Haven Symphony Orchestra will present a free summer concert with the Brubeck [...]
Date :  August 02, 2014
3
4
5
10:00 AM
Archbishop O'Brien Library, Bloomfield, Bloomfield, United States
BLOOMFIELD – The Archbishop O’Brien Library will sponsor a summer film series, Catholic Cinema [...]
11:30 AM
Wampanoag Country Club, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
WEST HARTFORD – The Mount St. Mary’s University alumni golf tournament will take place Aug. 5 at the [...]
Date :  August 05, 2014
6
7
05:00 PM
Holy Rosary Parish, Ansonia, Ansonia, United States
Holy Rosary Parish will sponsor its 47th annual Italian festival, Festa! 2014, from 5-10 p.m. Aug. 7-9 on [...]
Date :  August 07, 2014
8
05:00 PM
Holy Rosary Parish, Ansonia, Ansonia, United States
Holy Rosary Parish will sponsor its 47th annual Italian festival, Festa! 2014, from 5-10 p.m. Aug. 7-9 on [...]
Date :  August 08, 2014
9
05:00 PM
Holy Rosary Parish, Ansonia, Ansonia, United States
Holy Rosary Parish will sponsor its 47th annual Italian festival, Festa! 2014, from 5-10 p.m. Aug. 7-9 on [...]
05:00 PM
St. Michael Church, Beacon Falls, Beacon Falls, Conn., United States
Credo Catholic Singles, a community of single, widowed and divorced Catholics from throughout the [...]
06:15 PM
Shrine of St. Anne for Mothers, Waterbury, Waterbury, United States
WATERBURY – A “Family Dance for Life” is set for Aug. 9 at the Shrine of St. Anne for Mothers, 515 [...]
Date :  August 09, 2014
10
12:00 AM
Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, New Haven, United States
NEW HAVEN – The Catholic Biblical School and the Knights of Columbus Museum have teamed up to host an [...]
Date :  August 10, 2014
11
12
07:00 PM
Assumption School, Manchester, Manchester, United States
 Valerie Mara, assistant superintendent of academics for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of [...]
10:00 AM
Archbishop O'Brien Library, Bloomfield, Bloomfield, United States
BLOOMFIELD – The Archbishop O’Brien Library will sponsor a summer film series, Catholic Cinema [...]
Date :  August 12, 2014
13
12:00 AM
St. Paul Catholic High School, Bristol, Bristol, United States
"Successful Study Skills 4 Students" will be presented Aug. 13-15 at St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol for junior high school students in the morning and for high school students in the [...]
Date :  August 13, 2014
14
15
16
05:00 PM
Chili's, Wallingford , Wallingford, Conn., United States
BLOOMFIELD – Credo Catholic Singles, a community of single, widowed and divorced Catholics from [...]
05:00 PM
St. Michael Church, Beacon Falls, Beacon Falls, Conn., United States
Credo Catholic Singles, a community of single, widowed and divorced Catholics from throughout the [...]
Date :  August 16, 2014
17
18
10:00 AM
Tunxis Plantation Golf Club, Farmington, Farmington, United States
The 19th Annual Franciscan Golf Classic to benefit the Franciscan Life Center and Franciscan Home Care and Hospice Care, will take place Aug. 18 at Tunxis Plantation Golf Club, Farmington.  The $175 [...]
Date :  August 18, 2014
19
10:00 AM
Archbishop O'Brien Library, Bloomfield, Bloomfield, United States
BLOOMFIELD – The Archbishop O’Brien Library will sponsor a summer film series, Catholic Cinema [...]
Date :  August 19, 2014
20
21
12:00 PM
St. Joseph School, Meriden, Meriden, United States
Open House at St. Joseph School
Date :  August 21, 2014
22
06:30 PM
St. Paul Catholic High School, Bristol, United States
BRISTOL – St. Paul Catholic High School will have its fifth annual Falcon 5k event at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 22. [...]
Date :  August 22, 2014
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