GREENWICH, Conn. -- Greenwich High School students put a face to their cause last month when they met with a homeless Army veteran and heard his story.
Members of the school’s Help for the Homeless club were visited by residents and representatives of Stamford’s Pacific House Shelter.
One, a man named Chris, had a particularly hard message to convey to the teens.
“It’s wretched, you disconnect from everything,” Chris told them.
“All you think about is where you’re gonna get your next meal, your next change of clothes, how you’re gonna get clean and where you’re gonna sleep.”
Chris, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, told the group that he found it difficult to adjust to civilian life after being honorably discharged from the Army.
He drifted in and out of jobs and shelters until a Pacific House outreach case manager encouraged him to come into the shelter for triage services – like basic medical care and nutritious meals.
Today, two years later, Chris told the students, he has a positive outlook, his health is improved, and he is taking computer classes as a first step towards going back to school.
“Through this experience, these students are learning that they possess the ability to have a profound impact on the world around them,” said Andrew Barer, Pacific House’s director of development. “By reaching out in service to their broader community, they are deepening their understanding of our interconnected world.”
“We are enormously grateful for their help,” Barer added.
Students said they were inspired after sharing Chris’s story and hearing Barer speak.
“Chris's appreciation was heartwarming, hearing about his familial upbringing and unstable life shocked me considering how stable he seemed now,” said Vayle Povinelli, the club’s co-president.
“It was also surprising,” she said, “how he initially denied help from The Pacific House, since his description of homeless life was not pleasant.”
Chris's experience made her realize how the club’s contributions to the shelter are needed and appreciated, Povinelli said.
The club was started three years ago by students with the guidance of Sandi Mond, a former educator and principal at North Street School.
Four times a year, these students purchase, prepare and serve meals for dozens of homeless men.
Said Jessica Keller, a Greenwich High School teacher who advises the group: “Meeting Chris and hearing his first-hand experience about his childhood, upbringing and struggles prior to becoming homeless helped the students understand just how significant their service is and the many ways in which their contributions help so many at Pacific House.”
“It was a real pleasure to have them speak to our students," Keller added.
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