MERIDEN — Margaret Frost has raised her grandson since he was a baby. Twenty four years later, Arthur Frost is finding ways to repay her.
After being evicted from their Foster Avenue home in 2017, Arthur Frost and Margaret Frost found themselves at Shelter NOW on St. Casimir Drive in downtown Meriden where they stayed for 10 months before finding an apartment in Middletown.
While at the shelter, Arthur Frost would leave his grandmother behind every morning and return in the evening.
Margaret Frost is nearing 80 and has been shuffling between apartments and motels with Arthur for several years. After her brother died, the financial situation became more severe and to make matters worse, Arthur Frost lost his job at Wal-Mart. Margaret has difficulty walking long distances, but states clearly she’s not ready for senior housing.
Arthur Frost, like many individuals who stayed at the shelter had to find ways to occupy himself during the day.
It was during those daytime hours that Frost made the connections that would eventually show him the way out of homelessness. He took his driver’s test and got his license, attended college classes, enlisted in the Connecticut National Guard and will be deployed to Afghanistan next month. The guard is now helping him pay for online classes and hopefully a home when he returns.
“I want to better myself for myself and my grandmother,” Frost said.
Frost spent his time at the Meriden Public Library and the shelter staff referred him to Beat the Street Community Center on South Colony Road. In addition to working out, Frost connected with Executive Director Larry Pelletier, who enrolled him into the career development program.
“Career development is for young adults,” Pelletier said. “Many get out of high school and never pursued any career development. We work them on mentoring and guiding them to find different opportunities to do the things they like to do.”
Frost was one of those young people.
With the help of Beat the Street, he connected with Fred Silberman, the program facilitator for Meriden Adult Education.
”We have inter-agency collaboration,” Silberman said. “He sent Arthur to see me.. At the time he seemed to want to move ahead with his education but seemed immobilized. We worked on finding out some of the background. Once we were able to figure out the barriers we could make suggestions. To his credit he followed our suggestions and post-secondary education recommendations.”
Frost has a wry sense of humor and his grandmother explained he had attention issues as a child but appears to have outgrown much of it. Grandmother and grandson tease each other like close siblings, but Frost keeps a sharp eye on her well-being.
Silberman suggested some Middlesex Community College classes at Platt High School and provided help with test taking. Frost navigated the financial aid package for a program in manufacturing and was taking the bus to Goodwin College in East Hartford and the Middlesex campus in Middletown.
Keith French, a Beat the Street volunteer, recalled Frost missing the last bus to Meriden and walking from the Middletown campus to the shelter.
“Anybody else would reach out and ask for a ride,” French said. “He’s pretty self-reliant. I’m excited and proud of what he’s accomplished.”
French learned that Frost had taken the written portion of the driver’s license exam but never took the driving portion and was rusty. They did some practice driving and French took him to Wethersfield for his license.
“Arthur is a unique individual,” French said. “He’s motivated. A self-starter. He completed a semester or two at Middlesex College.”
Pelletier also introduced Frost to local National Guard recruiter Jose Quinones. Frost was interested, and attended a drill.
“We took him and a couple of other people and he fell in love with it,” Pelletier said. “He followed through with it. Everything we asked him to do he followed through with. He had to put time and effort into himself. He wasn’t one of these kids who aced everything.”
Frost is a helicopter repairman with the National Guard. His mother will stay with his grandmother during his deployment. The family had to downsize from a nine-room apartment to a two-bedroom apartment and have stored goods in Berlin and Clinton.
Columbus House helped the Frosts with the deposit on their new apartment. It’s still expensive, but Margaret Frost has her name on the Section 8 waiting list in Wallingford and checks it often. They are 35th, she said.
Arthur Frost teases her that she’ll probably end up picking out their first home, but he’ll fix it up to his liking. He’s counting on a low-interest Veterans Administration mortgage.
Margaret Frost just wants her grandson to return safe after his deployment.
“I’m just hoping he comes back alive,” she said. “Then we can get a place of our own to enjoy... a permanent spot with a nice big garage for storage and a workshop for fixing things.”
Margaret Frost gave her grandson her car so he can drive to his many activities, and she’s taught him carpentry and car repair.
Arthur Frost is still working through different things with Pelletier and his other mentors. Perhaps instead of immediate house shopping, he could first buy reliable transportation.
“He’s a smart kid, he’s a good kid, but he still needs some direction in managing things in his life,” Pelletier said. “We don’t want to see him go down that same road. We’re directing him to use money wisely.”
Finding someone who listens and acts on all the suggestions coming from those who want to help is rare, Pelletier said.
“It’s just you never really get someone who has had a convergence going on like this reaching out to different services,” Pelletier said. “He got involved and took advantage of programs to get him permanent housing and come up on the other end to gain what he’s accomplished. That’s what amazed me about him. He’s accomplished so much.”
Frost’s story is a lesson of hope for others, Pelletier said. “It could happen that way,” he said. “There are opportunities if you take advantage of them.”