DANBURY Drowning rocks homeless community

December 3, 2018 GMT

DANBURY — David Mullen led the final few months of his life under the radar, staying on the streets of downtown Danbury and making do with what help he could gather from local homeless advocates.

But much of his story was lost early Saturday when police found him lifeless in the icy water of the Still River, the result of an apparent accidental drowning just about 150 yards downstream from where he was known to camp, police officials have said.

Mullen’s death has rocked the small homeless community that lives downtown, close-knit enough to know one another even though they don’t share much about their pasts, friends said.

“I wish I knew more about him,” said Debbie Velez, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“He was a good guy,” she continued. “He liked to take care of people. He was always looking out for others.”

At Dorothy Day Hospitality House’s weekday lunch, where volunteers and other diners say they met Mullen on several occasions, friends mourned the lost of a kind person.

“He was a great guy,” Brian Ashley said. “I just got along with him and it’s a shame he’s gone ... I’ll miss him, he was one of my friends.”

Mullen, 56, apparently fell into the waterway behind the former News-Times building in the early hours of Saturday morning, police said. Officers arrived on Crosby Street, just south of that spot, to find Mullen’s body partially submerged and spent the morning retrieving his body.

Police found no evidence of foul play and are awaiting the results of an autopsy.

Officers notified Mullen’s family, but attempts to reach his family have been unsuccessful.

Mullen rarely spoke about his life before living on the streets, only occasionally mentioning a family and memories of their home, friends said. It was not clear how long he had been without a home, but homeless advocates and his friends suggested it was less than a year.

It is not unusual for people who are homeless to remain tight-lipped about their intimate details, leaving friends and service providers in the dark about their personal stories, said Michele Conderino, director of homeless services at Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.

“That’s the typical thing, unfortunately,” she said. “There’s help out there, but that doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to choose it at any point.

“A lot of the guys we work with to an extent will try to fly under the radar a little bit,” she continued. “The tricky thing is trying to get engage them at the point they’re really looking for help. It’s a matter of trying to build relationships.”

Conderino and other service providers have engaged Mullen to help, but none could not provide more details about his life due to confidentiality rules.

His death puts the spotlight on a homeless services system that has made strides to reduce the chronically homeless but still has more work to do to reduce homelessness even further, Conderino said.

Friend Donnie Shaffer, who has been homeless in Danbury since August, got to know Mullen through mutual friends and said he will be missed.

“The way it is out here, we don’t try to bring up our personal stuff, we just try to be there for each other,” he said. “He kept to himself and when he wasn’t drinking, he was great company to be around.”