‘Life was hard’: Waterbury dad turned to the Salvation Army when he was homeless and hungry

Connecticut Families

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — “We responded to an ad in Waterbury, Connecticut,” says Don Edmonson who, with his son, left Florida, bound for a new life.

But they were met with a terrible surprise.

“When we got here, there was no job and money ran out very quickly and we found ourselves sleeping in the car,” he says.

“I remember a lot of stress,” says his son, Will, who was a teenager at the time. “Life was hard, life was really hard.”

But a call to 2-1-1 changed everything. The service hooked the family up with The Salvation Army.

“First and foremost, they gave us a place to lay our head and consistent meals,” says Don.

“We are currently the only shelter in Waterbury that prioritizes single dads,” explains Sofia Swaby, Housing Program Coordinator for the Salvation Army.

Their space to sleep was small but comfortable.

The nine-room shelter has a common room for kids and computers available for use.

During four months here, Edmonson got healthcare, insurance and signed up for a rapid re-housing program.

“Our food pantry started doing Door Dash to people that couldn’t get out of their home due to the pandemic so numbers in our food pantry have skyrocketed,” says Swaby, noting that while we’re coming out of the COVID crisis, the situation hasn’t improved for everyone.

“We’re still seeing same numbers,” she says.

“Now that rent moratoriums are coming to an end, 12 million people nationwide are soon to be homeless, that really terrifies me, to be honest,” says Don.

Don and Will now have their own home and both work for The Salvation Army, at the shelter, giving back.

“It allows me to have more empathy with the people that are here because I’ve been there,” says Don.

Will wears a key to the shelter on a chain around his neck: “It’s a great reminder of where I’ve come. It’s a great reminder of where I’m going.”

He has a message for anyone currently struggling: “You’ve got to keep your chin up, keep your head held high. Things are rough.”

The Edmonsons’ say they’ll always be eternally grateful to The Salvation Army, which has three shelters in the state.

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