NORWALK, Conn. — Remember Joe and his dog, Bronson? Thanks to Diana Paladino Christopher, the next chapter is unfolding in the life of the formerly homeless Norwalk man.
Many in the Norwalk community banded together last winter to help Joe, who lived in his van with his black Labrador retriever. (He agreed to be identified by only his first name.)
And this week, Joe will be moving into an apartment of his own.
It all started last January, when Diana Paladino-Christopher of Norwalk launched a GoFundMe page to help Joe as the region braced for one of the first snowstorms of the winter. While running errands, her young son asked why Joe lived in his van in the parking lot at CVS.
"I felt bad because I knew we would be getting a fairly significant storm and I hoped they would have someplace to go," she wrote on a recent GoFundMe page. "Fast forward and an amazing community came together."
The original GoFundMe page raised $6,848 to help Joe, who refused to go to a homeless shelter because he could not take Bronson with him.
But he was able to use the money raised to stay at the Econo Lodge in the coldest of winter days and the hottest of summer days.
"The outpouring of support for this extremely humble and kind man was overwhelming," Paladino-Christopher said.
He was also able to fix up his van, buy much-needed new tires, have warm meals and "a small sense of security with money for gas and other daily essentials," she said.
Paladino-Christopher began working with Adam Bovilsky of the Human Relations & Fair Rent Department in Norwalk.
"A roof over his head was the ultimate goal," she said. "It was a long and daunting process. But no one gave up!"
Sadly, during the process Bronson became ill and passed away two months ago.
"It was a devastating blow for Joe," she said. "Bronson was his best friend and his entire world!"
But Joe can take comfort in knowing that he has a new apartment and will be moving in on Friday.
Paladino-Christopher has started a second GoFundMe page to help Joe purchase a few new items, including a mattress, a couch and a few simple housing items.
"We want his apartment to be a home for him — someplace comfortable and warm," she said.
As of late Wednesday, she had raised $1,345 of the $1,750 goal.
Click here for the GoFundMe page.
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