A chance: something that seems so simple and basic, but at the same time can feel impossible to get.
That’s all Brian Davis wants.
Davis, almost 60, is a homeless man living in a wooded section off the linear trail in downtown Southington with at least two others. He has been there approximately six months, ever since he hit the reset button and walked away from it all, including a job and a home. He had been working in the electronics field for six years in Torrington, and felt everything he earned get slowly siphoned away by the woman he was with. He decided it was time for a change.
“What do you do when you’re about to go insane and you have to make a change?” he said.
While it may seem like a drastic change, Davis is not unfamiliar with a meager lifestyle. Growing up in a poor family, he said he spent the early years of his life living in a basement, with no running water, that his father built. The intention was to build a house, but the partner his father was building it with took the money and ran.
“Being homeless, for me, isn’t that much of a stretch,” Davis said. “It’s not out of my comfort zone.”
Born and raised in Southington, Davis said he arrived back in town because he was familiar with the area. Ever since, he has been hoping to find a job, but one detail remains the biggest obstacle – he doesn’t have a permanent address.
Yes, he could attain one by living at one of the permanent shelters in Meriden, New Britain, or Waterbury, to name a few. But he knows what that life can be like in such places, having worked in shelters, and prefers not to get muddled in it. He wouldn’t feel safe.
“Sorry, I don’t want that address,” Davis said. “And it’s not that I refuse help, I just don’t want that help.”
Not only that, he said the shelter kicks everyone out during the day, forcing them to wander the streets – something he doesn’t want to do in a strange town – since there is no transportation to take him back to Southington.
“The help that [Southington] offers is pretty much ‘Leave town,’” he said.
“I just want to see them warm for the winter,” said Annie Gray, a private resident who has been aiding Davis with necessities.
No doubt, the temperatures have been consistently at the low end of the thermometer this winter. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was in Southington Wednesday afternoon speaking to the Southington Rotary Club. He took a minute to address the need for warming shelters in communities and said the state has cold weather protocols when frigid temperatures are in the forecast. Some of these protocols involve allowing places to house more people than usual.
“I would hope every community does something or has a place for the people who don’t have a place to go,” Malloy said.
“You can count on one hand the amount of times he’s been offered a ride in six months,” Gray said, referring to the transportation offered to homeless residents looking to go to a permanent shelter.
Even in the cold weather, Davis said shelter isn’t really the issue. The only thing he expressed desire for is a job – anything will do.
Davis said he has had numerous jobs over the years, and has the skills to go along with them, including carpentry, electrical work, and painting. But he’s happy to take anything for minimum wage so he can rent a room.
“I can push a broom as good as anyone,” he said.
“It’s killing him to not be doing anything,” Gray said.
For food, Davis relies heavily on Bread for Life, for which he also volunteers and helps deliver food to repay the community for the kindness he has received. He has also received many warming gestures from private citizens, like Gray. He said he would go to Southington Community Services more often, but it’s too far – his only transportation is a bicycle and he’s limited as to what he can take back with him.
“To pick yourself up again, you need a support system behind you,” Gray said.
“We want to be able to help ourselves,” Davis said, speaking for other homeless people who share space with him.
Davis explained how he just qualified for health insurance, and applied for SNAP food stamps.
He said he finds solace at First Congregational Church, and attends three services every Sunday.
“If anything, those people soothe my soul,” Davis said.
Davis sat at the Pepper Pot diner with Gray, who has provided him with clothes, food, laundry vouchers, or a haircut, which he just got Tuesday, eliminating the full beard he had before. He said his image generally causes people to judge him.
“I’m in a spot, I know, but I’ll get out of it, I have faith in that,” Davis said. “Anybody can find themselves in the same spot. Not everyone can live the way I do – it’s not easy.”
Davis said his parents are still alive and live nearby, but they’re “not at a point where they need my problems.” He also hasn’t had contact with them in years. He grew up the youngest of four – his two sisters currently live on the west coast, and his brother is dead.
Divorced from his ex-wife in 1986, Davis said he has a daughter he hasn’t had contact with in about 13 years. The last time he did have contact, he was living in Stamford working as a dispatcher for NAPA Auto Parts, and he had a close bond with her. But his ex-wife cut off his contact with the girl after the divorce.
Davis said there are other homeless people in town as well. Some live by the movie theater, and some live by Price Chopper.
“I think [residents in town] don’t have any idea how many people are out there at a given time,” he said.