Spring Street in Danbury is only a block long, running from New Street at the east end, to Beaver Street on the west.  When we bought our house on Spring Street in 1962 it cost $10,000.  My parents made a $1000 down-payment and we were to take care of the $87/month mortgage.  It was on a good sized piece of land and was half-way down the block, upper Spring Street being the nice part of the street and lower Spring Street the seedy part.

In 1982 Dorothy Day Hospitality House opened on lower Spring Street.  As Professor Paul Hines of WestConn tells the story, the winter had been very severe in 1981 and some folks had broken into a railroad car seeking shelter and had started a fire.  Some of the alumni of the Catholic Worker, including Leo McIlrath and Hines,  held a meeting thinking something needed to be done about the plight of the homeless.    Leo was busy with the Senior Center and Paul, with his wife Dr. Ann Hines,  had both  a pediatric clinic and a new baby.  Still,  meetings continued and the number of people wanting to be of help  grew.  They found the current building on Spring Street, central and available,  but had no money for the rental.  A 90- year-old lady on Social Security started a collection with $5.  They then remembered Father Giuliani* at the Benedictine Grange in Redding  had just inherited some money and he was willing to contribute $2000.  Dorothy Day Hospitality  House was off and running! For almost 30 years it has offered food and shelter to hundreds daily with nothing but volunteer help.  As Leo said at the beginning, “If God wants it, it will happen.”

Over the years Spring Street has been well known by the homeless, the hungry, drug traffickers, pimps and prostitutes.   It is also known for its octagonal house which was built in 1852 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  My own house was built in 1870 – my original bathtub still has its legs and we sometimes pull funny square nails out of old planks when doing repairs.

There used to be three churches on Spring Street’s one block.  Two of them,  a Spanish Pentecostal church and a black church, which might be described as of the store-front variety, were on lower Spring St. and a fancy brick-and-mortar Lutheran Church with steeple and chimes was on upper Spring St.   In 1986 it occurred to me that it would be nice if the three churches got together and sponsored a block party so we could all get to know one another.  I broached the subject to Mrs. Larsen, wife of the Lutheran pastor, and she liked the idea right away.   We went up and down the street and talked to every family, inviting them to come and contribute.   I also spoke to Father Carew, then a priest at St. Joseph’s on Main Street, and he agreed to ask the band (Outpouring) at the Community of the Cross to play at the party.   The police blocked the street off, people brought food, the band played and the church chimes rang.  A good time was had by all.  The block party was repeated for two subsequent years.  I met Kneesie, homeless, pregnant,and a drug addict,  at that first block  party, and she came to live with me for a few months after her baby was born.

Just this year Jericho Partnership with headquarters on nearby Rose Street, formed an alliance with the Lutheran Church on Spring Street to use their facilities to further their outreach to women in crisis pregnancies, at-risk youth, the homeless and the needy – “if you have a problem, we have a program for it.”  One of their objectives is to “clean up” Spring Street, and they have my hearty approval.

Last week  members of Jericho once more hosted a little party on Spring Street, complete with hot dogs, soda, snacks, music and a blocked-off street.  It was a small start but a welcome one.  The best part was the witness of  four men who told about their sorry history, what God had done for them, and how long they have been clean and productive.

God is still alive and working on Spring Street  – Hallelujah

*It came as a surprise to me that Father Giuliani, who made such an  important donation, and I are “related” in that he is the brother of my long-time best friend, Felice, about whom I blogged just a few days ago.

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Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.  – Isaiah 43:19