BRISTOL - Homeless camps are not specifically a Bristol issue, said Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, but an “urban issue” which the city is actively seeking to address.
Within the last month, homeless camps have been seen popping up at the Hoppers Birge Pond area, and even on the roof of the former Super Natural market building, according to Zoppo-Sassu.
Once police identify homeless people in Bristol, they refer them to local service organizations.
The city does offer a large number of support organizations that help the homeless, which has led people to think that they might be attracting them to the city. Zoppo-Sassu stated that this is “a myth that we need to break.”
“Every community, big or small, has a responsibility to the homeless and those who are living with difficult situations,” she said. “Everyone has to do their fair share. It is inappropriate for the ‘big fish’ communities to take on this huge burden if ‘small fish’ communities aren’t doing their part.”
Zoppo-Sassu said that she has spoken with Mayor Erin Stewart in New Britain about similar concerns.
“I understand that business owners and citizens are concerned when they see homeless people coming into the community,” she said. “This is an urban-specific problem – you see it in New Britain, Hartford and Waterbury too. They come to places where there are services and where there is transportation.”
Homeless camps are not the only issue the city faces, there is also aggressive panhandlers and “homeless impersonators.”
“I’m sure some of them are genuine, but most of them are not,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “I believe that most of the time, people who are giving money to them are just feeding an addiction. You should never feel obligated to give someone change. If you really want to help the homeless, donate to St. Vincent DePaul, the Agape House or one of our service organizations.”
The city has also adopted an ordinance revision that allows police to crack down on aggressive panhandlers and those impeding traffic. Zoppo-Sassu encourages people to call the police to report these situations.
“But, there are also people who are one illness or one missed payment away from homelessness,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “It is these people, who are teetering on the brink, we’re also concerned about.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following is a list of homeless services in Bristol and their hours of operation:
. The Salvation Army, at 19 Stearns St., daily, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
. The Agape House, at 43 School St., Monday-Saturday, from 8 a.m. to noon
. Brian’s Angels, at 19 Jacob St., Monday-Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
. The Bristol Library, at 5 High St., Monday-Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 8:30 to 5 p.m., and Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
. The Manross Library, at 260 Central St., Monday-Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
. The Senior Center, at 240 Stafford Ave., Monday-Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In addition, meals and snacks are available at the following locations and times:
. The Agape House, Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon
. The Salvation Army, daily, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Brian Angel’s, Monday through Thursday, from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., and Friday-Saturday, from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.