Winsted man’s mission: ‘Fighting the good fight’ on homelessness
Winsted resident Paul Venti awaits help from the Boy Scouts to pitch his borrowed tent. 
Photo by Debra A. Aleksinas

Winsted man’s mission: ‘Fighting the good fight’ on homelessness

WINSTED — As dusk turned to darkness, Paul Venti sat alone in the shadows of the town green, awaiting help from the local Boy Scouts to pitch his borrowed tent so he could hunker down for the night.

Surrounded by a pile of warm clothing, a lantern, jumbo thermos, bottled water and rolled-up sleeping bag, Venti arrived early to secure his space on the cold, hard ground. 

Soon, the green would be filled with participants for the Winsted Area Branch YMCA’s 12th annual “Freezin’ for a Reason” sleep-out and fundraiser to help raise awareness about homelessness in the Northwest Corner and support the work of the Winsted Y’s 16-bed emergency shelter.

As cars swished by during the busy evening rush hour, Venti, of Winsted, revealed his reason for supporting the event for the second year in a row:  “I am doing this in memory of a friend that I lost to PTSD, a veteran. Tonight is his night.”

Venti, a retired member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 777 and former food drive coordinator for his union, explained that he has taken the battle against hunger and homelessness as a personal challenge in the hope of helping lift fellow citizens out of their plights:

“I have dedicated my life to this. This is my mission.”

In 2016, Venti, a retired Navy veteran, founded The Good Fight on Hunger and Homelessness, a nonprofit corporation aimed at helping the unhoused. He also volunteers and coordinates food drives with the Missions of Mercy (M.O.M.) free dental clinic and has hosted seminars around the country.

His home’s two-car garage, he said, doubles as a food pantry: “The FedEx guy knows us well.”

With every food and supply run, Venti said, his savings were quickly depleting, so he sold his coveted United Association (UI) pin collection, which took him two and a half decades to collect, to continue his mission.

A union brother suggested he design a pin of his own for Fighting the Good Fight, which resulted in a stream of revenue that allowed him to buy many needed items like sleeping bags, tents, hoodies and sneakers to hand out. 

Venti is also author of the book “Fighting the Good Fight on Hunger and Homelessness: Life Stories and Meeting Inspiring People,” available on Amazon. He said he learned valuable lessons from his friends on the streets.: “I never walked in their shoes, so I don’t judge.” 

He recalled attending a Medicare summit in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the Connecticut Alliance of Retired Americans, when he came across a group of homeless people on Pennsylvania Avenue, two blocks from the White House, huddled in sleeping bags on top of steam grates to stay warm. “There are a lot of myths about homelessness,” said Venti. “Homeless does not mean undereducated, jobless, you’re a drug addict, alcoholic or lazy. Nobody is exempt from being homeless.”

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