NORWALK, Conn. — Pets and their owners have a special bond, and one of the most unique centers around a homeless Norwalk man who refuses to leave his van because he will not go to a shelter without his beloved dog.
A Norwalk woman has started a GoFundMe page to help the homeless man, “Joe,” and his black lab, Bronson. (Click here for the GoFundMe page.)
Diana Paladino-Christopher created the page last month as the region braced for one of the first storms of the winter. While running errands, Diana’s 3-year-old boy Brayden inquired about the man and the dog.
“He said, ‘Mommy, does that man live at CVS?’’’ Diana said. “I told him I hope not. It’s going to be really cold and as I pulled away, I felt so bad for him. I felt like I needed to do something.”
Paladino-Christopher posted on the We Are From Norwalk CT and drew an instant response. “People said they had seen him many times and that’s very nice,’’ she said. “Some had known his story.”
According to information on the GoFundMe Page and the We Are From Norwalk CT Facebook page, Joe and Bronson — named after actor Charles Bronson — have lived in a van in the drug store parking lot off of Westport Avenue. The Facebook page said Joe lost his job and has been offered housing by a family member, but he would need to find another living arrangement for the dog. The man has declined to accept housing where he cannot also have his dog.
“I worked in the veterinary field for 10 years, and I have a soft spot for animals,’’ Paladino-Christopher said. “I wanted to help spread the word so I started the GoFundMe page. I wanted as many people as I could get to step up and help.”
Paladino-Christopher, a lifelong Norwalk resident who resides near the store, got instant feedback from her post and raised more than $2,300. She already donated some of the money to the man, who used it to service his vehicle. When Joe was presented with donations and food, Paladino-Christopher said he was "in shock and incredibly humbled by the kindness of the community and so many."
“He seems to have fallen on hard times and he’s been unable to get out of a bad situation,’’ Paladino-Christopher said. “He’s doing the best that he can. At nights he’s able to stay in a garage where a business owner lets him stay. He’s been able to stay a couple of nights at the Econo Lodge with his dog. A lot of people in the community have offered their help.
Broad River Animal Hospital has offered its support and is accepting food and monetary donations. St. Matthew’s Church has also offered support, and people have donated gift cards for food.
Paladino-Christopher said she has contacted Norwalk’s Human Relations Department to seek assistance for the man, but service agencies can only do so much, especially when Joe is reluctant to leave Bronson.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,’’ said Paladino-Christopher , who also has a 2-year-old son, Frankie. “He’s been chronically homeless for a long time. It’s unfortunate. I wish I could help everyone. I feel glad I was able to reach out to the community to make a difference.”