NORTHWEST CORNER — Since 1972, Torrington based FISH (Friends in Service to Humanity) has operated the largest emergency homeless shelter in the Northwest Corner, along with a food pantry for residents in the area.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FISH is now experiencing unprecedented challenges.
Despite the challenges, FISH Executive Director Deirdre Houlihan DiCara said that the organization continues to operate its programs.
“I’m knocking on wood because the virus has not yet entered FISH,” DiCara said in an interview with The Winsted Phoenix. “We pray that will continue to be the case. We are facing challenging times during the pandemic.”
At the shelter, DiCara said that the organization has to create social distancing in its communal home setting by sending some of its residents to hotel.
“We moved anyone who is 60 years and older who face particular health issues,” DiCara said. “They’ve all been moved to a hotel so they all have their own rooms and bathrooms. They are not sharing communal space. There are hotels around the state that have been contracted by the state specifically for the homeless.”
DiCara said that the funds to cover hotel expenses will eventually be paid by FEMA.
“We now have 15 residents who are at the hotel and 15 who are at the shelter,” she said. “We have to feed these residents three meals a day. What’s wonderful is that thanks to friends and folks that might be seeing it on Facebook. I reached out and wonderful angels are creating dinners for me. George Noujaim’s has come forward and he has prepared so far four unbelievable feasts for folks in the shelter.”
DiCara said that other restaurants and residents have donated meals to the shelter: Winsted residents Gerri Griswold, Lucille Kelsey and Kris Kelsey, New Hartford resident Mark Cuozzo, Susan Ryan from Torrington, Wisdom House, and Joe’s Pizza and Wings.
“It’s like a godsend to us to not have to worry about how we prepare three meals a day,” she said. “It’s really a beautiful gift at this time.”
As for the food pantry, DiCara said that “all food pantries right now are having a challenging time and they are greatly in need.”
“This is because we have an increase in demand for food as we see far more people unemployed or furloughed,” she said. “There is a dwindling food supply because the grocery stores are currently not donating food to us due to their increase in demand. Grocery stores donations have ceased.”
DiCara said that individuals have continued to donate food to the organization’s food pantry, located at 322 South Main Street in Torrington.
“We have wonderful angels who are grocery shopping for us,” Dicara said. “The Litchfield County Bar Association has adopted FISH. They are planning on doing meals in May for shelter folks. The organization also has people who are brave enough to do grocery shopping for us.”
DiCara added that last year that FISH’s food pantry served 1,506 people, which includes 657 families.
“We’re seeing an increase in need,” she said.
For more information about FISH go to www.fishnwct.org