You’ve seen them on the street corner with their signs begging for money. But have you wondered what happens when you drive away or what happened to Connecticut's homeless population since the pandemic hit?
“People think that this is easy. Being homeless stinks. And I have no place to sleep. I sleep under a bridge with a couple mattresses and a blanket. What kind of life is that for me at 70 years old? But I have no people. I have nothing,” Michael Demers said.
Demers panhandles at the corner of New Park and Flatbush Avenue in West Hartford.
“People who don’t know us think we’re dirty and we’re trashy but really we’re not. We’re good people,” Demers said.
He said he’s not an alcoholic or a drug addict. He makes about $22 a day. He said he uses the money to buy food.
“I went from having a job, having an apartment, having a car, having a beautiful girl and then just one day everything just slowly started leaving me,” Alfred Andel said.
Andel spoke with NBC Connecticut as he was standing near the statue of Lafayette on Capitol Avenue in Hartford.
“It’s hard to go from having an atm card and having money to not having nothing and having to hold a sign every five minutes, just to get enough money, just to survive. I mean I don’t like it,” Andel said.
The homeless people who spoke with NBC Connecticut said since the pandemic hit, it's harder to get food, especially on the weekends when soup kitchens are closed.
House of Bread, a soup kitchen and shelter in Hartford serves breakfast and lunch. They said they are contemplating reopening on the weekend.
“What happened during the bigger part of the pandemic is we got less and less people,” Johnson said. “I think what happened was Gov. Lamont put them up in hotels and things like that to get them off the street to shut down on COVID.”
Andrea Johnson is the head chef at the House of Bread.
“Now we’re starting to see a surge. Yesterday we had a surge of 175 individuals backed up here at the House of Bread,” Johnson said.
Johnson said they’re seeing more children and families.
“We are in a little bit of a difficult situation right now where there are more people seeking homeless services, shelters aren’t taking them,” Cho said.
Richard Cho is the executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.
“Every region in our state is seeing a growing number of people on waitlists for shelters and those are folks who maybe have to sleep on the street.”
It’s unclear if there are more people out on the street since the pandemic started.
“Shelters aren’t taking many new clients in. We don’t know if that means many people are being forced to sleep outside and are unsheltered,” Cho says.