The faces of the homeless

William Gavin, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac University’s Community Action Project (CAP) partnered with Hands on Hartford to host “Faces of the Homeless” on Sept. 30, to discuss homelessness in Connecticut.

Hands on Hartford is a local nonprofit dedicated to giving impoverished residents aid through food services, housing projects and community outreach — including Faces of the Homeless.

The organization allows people to meet with members of the homeless community, instead of outside advocates.

Faces of the Homeless was created to inform people about what it means to be homeless and about why people become homeless.

“I was hoping that the speakers would share their stories and show the students that homelessness can affect anyone and everyone,” said Julia Nguyen, CAP director and senior in the physician’s assistant program. “The Quinnipiac community is extremely privileged in that we have housing, access to an amazing education and access to food, water and other resources, so I was hoping that this would spread awareness of how differently other people live in the same world.”

Quinnipiac students largely come from families with wealthier backgrounds — 42% of the class of 2022 comes from families with an income over $150,000, while 20% have a family income of between $100,000-150,000, according to the profile of the student body on

Meanwhile, many homeless people have been excluded from the same privileges for a variety of reasons such as loss of a job or income, and the lack of services and affordable housing.

“When I became homeless in March of last year, I had been living with a family member, working part-time and temporary jobs,” said Pamela, a member of the homeless community in Hartford, who wished to keep her last name private. “I had taken an apartment because I had work and I had an income … and then ultimately I didn’t have any income.”

Even though Pamela referred to her own experience as “glamorous,” she went through a roller-coaster of events. She began staying with a close friend– — until she had to leave following an incident — before moving in with a family member and was able to get new jobs working in psychiatrists’ offices.

Pamela had been able to receive money from her ex-husband’s pension and used that to keep her belongings in a storage locker. However, she was barely able to keep the locker and had to visit shelters, soup kitchens and churches for food and shelter.

She also went through a series of events that led to her helping a man who manipulated her and stole her wallet and later all of her belongings. Through months of hard work and effort, Pamela is now living in an apartment in Wethersfield, and since she has been able to receive payment on her pension, she has focused on advocacy.

“I started advocating for the homeless at city hall, my advocacy was toward the places that they are housed in,” Pamela said.

The other speaker, Joe Krystofalski, is a Meriden native who has been working his entire life. He bussed tables at 7 years old, delivered papers at 10 and worked summer jobs in high school before he went to Central Connecticut State University. After he graduated, he became a warehouse manager, a high school teacher for autistic students among other jobs. Then, he took a job in 2005 as a warehouse manager, until he was injured on the job.

“In the summer of 2010, in July, I was getting off a forklift and my belt got caught, so my body went one way and my right knee the other way.” Krystofalski said. “I twisted and tore ligaments and my meniscus, and I basically damaged everything you could damage in my knee.”

Krystofalski went to different surgeons to try and get surgery, until on his 50th birthday when the company eliminated his position, just two weeks before he’d be eligible for a full severance package. This left him in a prolonged fight to get worker’s compensation or unemployment benefits, however neither would help.

“I contacted them and they said, ‘Well, no, they gave you a termination letter. So it’s an unemployment case.’ So I contacted unemployment and unemployment told me, ‘No, you got hurt on the job. It’s a workman’s comp case.’ So in January, neither one was paying me — I had no income coming in,” Krystofalski said.

He had recently paid for his son to go to Lincoln Technical Institute, but his lack of income eventually led to his eviction. While searching for work, he had to sell his car and put his belongings in storage, found a motel to live in and called the 211 hotline for help. But he only received out-of-date information, leaving him without a job and hiding the truth from his children.

“I told them that something was in the works, even though something wasn’t, because at that time I didn’t want to go to them and be a burden to them and have them think that their father was a failure,” Krystofalski said.

One day, he called Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s (D-CT) office, and the workers helped him get an apartment and a case manager. He managed to receive social security disability and workman’s compensation benefits, and he now lives with his daughter and grandchildren, while working at a supermarket and advocating for the homeless.

Krystofalski says you don’t have to become a working advocate for the homeless in order to help them — simple acts go a long way.

“I would ask that if you see a homeless person or the shoveled person on the street, that, you know, you validate them because the homeless person is a person who is homeless,” Krystofalski said. “That’s all it is. There’s still a human being. And the fact that you make eye contact and validate their humanity may be the thing that they need to make it through that day.”