“To me, seeing other people smile is therapeutic. You can’t put a price tag on that. That is my secret to happiness.”
Officer Jim Barrett:
Born in Hartford area, Officer Jim Barrett enlisted in the army at the age of 17. Having served in the military for 19 years, he was also on the police force of multiple towns in New England area before he returned to Hartford and became the community service officer at the City Hall. Over the years Officer Barrett has helped countless homeless people, including veterans and refugees to literally and figuratively get back on their feet. Officer Jim Barrett inspired the creation of the program Footwear with Care that provides sturdy shoes and boots to Hartford’s homeless. During our interview, Officer Barrett explained his passion to always help the underprivileged, often ignored groups of people.
“All the struggles I’ve had in my life was to save the underdog.”
Officer Barrett has always been the one who stands up for the little guy. Back in his high school, some athletes pick on and sometimes bully the other students. As an athlete himself, he would always stand up to the bully, “he’s with me. If you’ve got a problem with him, you’ve got a problem with me.” That heroic altruism followes him till this day.
He strives to be “a voice for people who do not have a voice.” Bouncing between calls of duty, Officer Barrett strives to become a mentor and a positive role model for the unfortunate who grew up in the broken family structure without a responsible father figure. “Breaking the vicious cycle” is his goal. “People who grew up in a household without a positive role model have bigger chances of ending up homeless.”
While the society may overlook the issue and deny chances of the homeless, Officer Jim Barrett believes in the good of people and always gives people a chance regardless of the past. “Officer Barrett, you are the first person to believe in me in my whole life,” said a former homeless man who has just obtained a house and a car. Taking a chance to trust is the beloved community service officer’s way of changing someone’s destiny for the better.
“There’s not enough hours in a day to help enough people and do my job.” Officer Jim Barrett
Hartford is the city with one of the best homeless-support programs within the northern Connecticut area. Many walk on foot from Farmington, East Hartford even as far as Manchester to seek shelter and warm food in Hartford.
However, there is only so much one man can do. There are so many people that need help while the available resources are still limited. Many of the homeless never committed a crime. “There are families with children living in tents, under the bridges and on the park benches. During the winter they cuddle up to stay warm. The children go to school during the day and come back to the tent after school,” recounts Officer Barrett, “I wish there’s more hours in the day so I can help more people.”
Officer Jim Barrett tries to help as many people as he possibly can, giving them footwear, connecting them with job interviews and endorsing them as a Hartford PD officer. In his office, there is a pantry with peanut butter, granola bars and other basic nutritional snacks to help the hungry; boxes of dress shoes to give away for job interviews and winter boots to assist the homeless who work and live outside in the brutal New England winters; and sheets of information of shelter and warm food.
“To take better care of the homeless especially the veterans, the upper management must take the time to listen.” —
Officer Barrett revealed the alarming reality of the opioid epidemic. “First you get too stressed, then you take the pill. When you are hooked on the pill, the only way is downhill.” The abuse of prescription painkillers among residents has been growing and leading to heroin addiction.
He recounts a story of a working single mother from an affluent suburb in Northern Connecticut becoming homeless in Hartford due to Opioid addiction. She is currently receiving assistance from Officer Barrett. This is only a tip of the iceberg of the bigger imminent problem. “The upper management has got to listen to the reasons why people resort to the drugs. If they started to listen, maybe the problem can be solved at its roots and more families can be saved.”
“There has been notable improvement on available resources to aid the homeless,” says Officer Barrett, “however, the waiting time to receive help is too long. To actually understand the homelessness in Hartford, the upper management needs to take the time and talk to the homeless guys huddling up in front of churches to stay warm, to observe their living conditions, and to learn about what they go through. Only then can we start to solve this problem. Change has to come from top down sometimes.”
Meet the interviewers/interns:
In pursuit of her passion in policy reform and community outreach, Sequoya has returned to Connecticut from Bowie State University where she now attends University of Connecticut's School of Social Work. She hope to earn a Master of Social Work in Community Organization with a dual degree as a Juris Doctor in Intellectual Property and Information Governance (MSW/JD) at the University of Connecticut (UCONN). She continues to reach out to the community in a variety of ways as an intern under Hartford Councilwoman, Wildaliz Bermudez.
Kent is a passionate member of the Hartford community. After graduating High School in Pennsylvania he continued his studies in Spanish and Public Policy at Trinity College in Hartford. His passion for community organizing has been a vital part of our volunteer support network. His work bringing issues of social justice to the Trinity campus has helped build bridges between Trinity and the Hartford community.