UA Brothers and Sisters continue to assist the homeless

UA Brothers and Sisters continue to assist the homeless

UA Brothers and Sisters fighting against homelessness

In 2018, retired Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 777 member Paul Venti started a non-profit corporation to help feed and clothe the homeless, Fighting the Good Fight on Hunger and Homelessness

On Feb. 7, 2010, the Kleen Energy Natural Gas power plant in Middletown, Conn., exploded, killing six Brothers. Venti wanted to do something to give back to the community. 

“I was a Night Steward on that job, and we began to have food drives to assist people experiencing homelessness in the community,” Venti said. “That was the beginning of my journey into helping the homeless and advocating for safer jobsites, and it just took off from there.”

An avid UA pin collector, Venti’s passion for helping the homeless became well known throughout the UA community, particularly the UA pin-trading community. Local unions and individual members consistently donate to the cause. 

Venti is a one-man show most of the time, stopping at homeless camps, opening his trunk and handing out needed items. He is a patient listener and has some extraordinary stories about the people he has met. 

He has featured them in a book available on Amazon, Fighting the Good Fight on Hunger and Homelessness: Life Stories and Meeting Inspiring People. 

One month before Thanksgiving, Venti planned a trip to California to personally thank the California members who had generously donated items and money to the cause and said it was important for him to shake their hands personally. 

Venti said that Jon Garrity, a Local 342 Steward on a big job in California, heard that he was making the trip and coordinated an outing to feed the homeless with several other members and their wives while he was there. 

Garrity is also very involved with providing food and provisions for people without housing in California. 

Venti made the trip with a duffel full of socks and toiletries, which are desperately needed by the homeless. 

Venti spreads the word in California

After hearing that Venti was making the trip to California, Local 393, San Jose, Calif., Business Agent Conrad Pierce and Local 393 Instructor Chris Reed asked him if he would talk to their apprenticeship class regarding health and safety, UA Heritage and his organization.

“He spoke to the class about safety and he has a very heavy message because it’s close to his heart because of what he went through in Connecticut,” Reed said. “The class was very receptive and had questions, which led to mental health awareness, listening to inner signals and trying to be hyperalert and not distort or ignore those signals.”

Reed is a 25-year member of Local 393 and is celebrating his 27th anniversary of sobriety. He said he was homeless once and related to everything Venti has done for the homeless. 

“Quite a few of the apprentices showed an interest in doing what I do,” Venti said. “I did tell them you have to be on your toes and a little bit streetwise because, unfortunately, there are a lot of homeless suffering from mental illness.”

Reed is part of the UA mental health awareness campaign, which his Training Coordinator, Brian Murphy, is pushing. He has taken the advanced class in Ann Arbor and is involved with VitalCog training, which trains organizations to address the early warning signs of suicide proactively. 

“Mental health awareness is so important on the jobsite, it goes back to that hyperalertness that Paul talked about,” Reed said. “The jobs we are working on now, such as the Intel job I’m working on, are very serious about mental health awareness.”

Pierce added that the world is full of takers and givers and Paul is a giver. He also talked about his own struggles and how he is a Marine Corps veteran who had a substance-use disorder and today celebrates every day of clean living. 

“January 19, 2005, my life began again,” Pierce said. “It’s been 19 years thanks to a UA-sponsored program, the Beat-it Employee Assistance Program.”

Pierce also suffered from homelessness, so he has a soft spot for Venti’s endeavors. 

“I don’t want to say it’s been smooth sailing,” Pierce said. “But when someone walks up to you and says, ‘Conrad, is that you?’, you know you’re doing something right.”

From San Jose, Venti drove to Local 460 in Bakersfield, then to Local 364 in Colton and to Local 761 in Burbank to personally thank them for their donations.