Archive for the ‘Strengthening Families and Resolving Crises’ Category

Hurricane Season is Starting

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

We finally got through winter but more terrible weather may be just ahead.

June 1st is the start of hurricane season.

Now is the time to get ready before a storm threatens our community.

As we know firsthand from Hurricane Sandy, being prepared to act quickly can be essential for survival. Even though severe weather was predicted before the hurricane hit, many said they did not have a plan and were caught unprepared.  After all, when was the last time a hurricane hit New York hard?

But now, post Sandy, we’ve learned that hurricanes happen here.

So do you know what to do if a hurricane watch is ordered?

Do you know how to evacuate if local officials call for an evacuation?

Don’t wait until a storm threatens to find out.  Get your family disaster plan together.  Find out if you’re in an evacuation zone and have an escape route planned.

Hurricane season can be unpredictable but you can take control by getting your plan ready today.

Check out these video tips from USWeather.gov and start preparing your family’s disaster plan now.

Are you still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy?

Catholic Charities operates the New York State Disaster Case Management program.

  • Are you going it alone and it is not working?
  • Are you still waiting for responses from agencies?
  • Have you been denied and do not know why?
  • Are you still living away from or in your damaged home?
  • Do you need someone to talk to?

Call us today at 855-258-0483

Help is here.

As Businesses Flee, Nuns March in to Restore Burned-Out City

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Photographed by Daniel Case

By Alice Kenny

One, sometimes two brick buildings stand lonely sentry amid rubble and rats in block after Newburgh city block.  Once home to the first Edison plant and the first city to be electrified, this Hudson River community an hour north of Manhattan is now distinguished by gangs and drug-infested violence.

Factories shuttered decades ago.  Rioters frustrated by poverty shattered store windows and burned down buildings. Those who could fled with what they had left.

But in 1983 a group of nuns–Sisters Monica McGloin and Margaret Kilpatrick of the Dominican Sisters of Hope, Monica Galligan and Suzanne LaChapele of the Little Sisters of the Assumption and Irene Freely of the Franciscan Sisters of Peace – put on work clothes, pitched their tent with the poor and founded Newburgh Ministries, an affiliate of Catholic Charities.

Theirs is far from a happily-ever-after story.

“The unemployment rate among this largely Hispanic and black young male population sticks stubbornly at nearly 50 percent,” says the Ministry’s Executive Director Colin Jarvis. “The only jobs seem those born of poverty –police, welfare workers and teachers– almost all of whom commute in from somewhere, anywhere other than Newburgh.”

But the sisters and staff are not giving up. They listen to their new neighbors, march with them down dusty streets lined with buildings ready to be condemned and join in restoring their community.

Newburgh Ministries, housed first in a storefront and later in a former sewing machine factory, began small.  There the homeless, the confused and those with nowhere else to go are still welcomed as guests.  They drop by to sip warm coffee, make free phone calls searching for work and receive comfort.  They shop at a thrift store where shirts, slacks and dresses are “sold” for dimes and dollars, prices they can afford to pay with dignity.  And they let their children build castles from blocks in a playroom safe from bullets outside.

The ministry added “Winterhaven,” a shelter so visitors no longer had to huddle over night in abandoned buildings.  And they teamed with St. Mary’s College and doctors from Christ Health Care to offer a free health clinic where no insurance is needed.

“The goal, however, is not to soften the blows of poverty,” says Mr. Jarvis as folks stop by his office to say hi, “but rather to empower people to transform a community.”

So Newburgh Ministries added Project Jumpstart, a language and tutoring program that keeps youngsters from falling through education’s cracks.

And perhaps, most important, they are building micro businesses.

More than a dozen women, all minority and most unable to speak English, sit at a kitchen table on the Ministry’s second floor, weaving glass beads into earrings, necklaces and bracelets.  Their wares are documented, sold at craft fairs and turned into income for these newly minted jewelers.

Now, with help from a volunteer chef, Newburgh Ministry is kicking off “Baked Goods from the Hood” where local men and women will learn to bake, market and run an industry.

“We’re not looking for the government to solve people’s problems,” Mr. Jarvis says.  “People solve people’s problems.”

New Mom Tweets Big News

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

PCC ImagesmallBy Alice Kenny

In just 140 characters, Maria used the hashtag “Mom” to announce this week the huge news that she celebrated her parenting class graduation from Catholic Charities affiliate, Good Counsel Homes,  just in time for the arrival of her baby.

#mom Maria celebrated her @CathCharitiesNY #parenting class graduation just in time for the arrival of her #baby! pic.twitter.com/gfjRwPJkEK

Good Counsel is more than a shelter for homeless, pregnant women.  It is a supportive and loving home where the needs of the women served are met immediately and for the long term.  Programs each mom has access to are provided with the ultimate goal of leaving Good Counsel, affording each mom with the life skills training she needs to never be homeless again.  Programs include budgeting and vocational assistance, nutrition, guidance and, most important for Maria, parenting classes.

Congratulations, Maria, for graduating from Good Counsel’s Parenting Class.

All our best for you and your new baby!

While this is a happy ending, most come to Good Counsel with very tough starts.

Check out live testimonies from women helped by Good Counsel in this new video.

Every day women are abused, neglected, and lacking in maternity care and support. But there is hope: Good Counsel’s door is always open for any pregnant woman in crisis. Since 1985 it has been a home to more than 6,000 mothers and children.

Learn more about Good Counsel Homes.

Catholic Charities Joins Forces with Fellow Faith Leaders to Fight Poverty

Friday, May 16th, 2014
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Joshua Scott – FPWA Images

“For the first time, three religious charity umbrella groups in New York are joining forces to study government policies and programs designed to help people living in poverty in the hopes of finding better solutions to the problem and helping really change lives,” reports Theresa Agovino in Crain’s New York yesterday May 15, 2014.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, and the UJA Federation of New York have worked on jointly providing services over the years, but their latest endeavor is taking a new turn. Two months ago, the trio tapped the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based social and economic and policy research group, to review various government poverty programs, with an emphasis on city programs, to learn more about what is effective. They paid $125,000 for the study and hope to have results in two months. The executive said that it was still too soon to say how they would use the results of the study because they aren’t sure what it will uncover.

Together the groups have a network of more than 400 nonprofits that offer a wide range of services including providing food, housing and job training to a total of nearly six million people. Many of those nonprofits receive city funding and work with government agencies on various programs.

‘We may have different theologies, but we each share the tradition of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and housing the homeless,’ said John Ruskay, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the UJA.

Despite all of the good works these groups and others provide, poverty in the city remains stubbornly high. The poverty rate in New York City was essentially unchanged at 21% from 2010 to 2012, but that’s up from 19% in 2008, according to the New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity, which works to fight poverty.

‘We want to see how we can change the outcomes,’ said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities. ‘Maybe certain programs need to be scaled up or offered together. How can we do better?’

Jennifer Jones Austin, chief executive officer and executive director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, said she heard about a similar study being conducted in Wisconsin and thought it would be a good idea to create one for the city to help inform public policy. She opted to reach out to her counterparts to amplify her voice.

‘We are all distinguished and respected in our own rights,’ said Ms. Jones Austin, who served as co-chair of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transition team along with Carl Weisbrod. ‘I believe that with the three of us people will be really listening at city hall.’

It is unacceptable in our wealthy city and nation that one out of five New Yorkers now lives below the poverty line, scrambling to feed and house their hungry children.

“Poverty and its effects afflicts too many of our neighbors in New York,” Msgr. Sullivan said as he discussed this interfaith initiative.

“I look forward to reporting back to you on the Urban Institute’s findings. This study will hopefully serve to enhance our work and our impact on those most in need.”

Follow us here on Facebook and Twitter to stay abreast of the latest findings.

Read the full story here in Crain’s New York.

Hardship Makes a New Home in the Suburbs

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Hardship Makes a New Home in the Suburbs“The freeway exits around here are dotted with people asking for money, holding cardboard signs to tell their stories,” reports Jennifer Medina in this recent article in The New York Times. “The details vary only slightly and almost invariably include: Laid off. Need food. Young children.”

Mary Carmen Acosta often passes the silent beggars as she enters parking lots to sell homemade ice pops, known as paletas, in an effort to make enough money to get food for her family of four. On a good day she can make $100, about double what she spends on ingredients. On a really good day, she pockets $120, the extra money offering some assurance that she will be able to pay the $800 monthly rent for her family’s three-bedroom apartment. Sometimes, usually on mornings too cold to sell icy treats, she imagines what it would be like to stand on an exit ramp herself …

For the last year, Ms. Acosta spent much of her time at the local Catholic Charities office, taking self-help classes with other women in similar circumstances. She earned $100 a month enrolling women in courses on healthy diets, balancing checkbooks and parenting skills. She keeps a folder thick with certificates she has earned in such classes. A letter from President Obama thanking her for volunteering at her son’s school, calling her a “shining example,” is tucked in a protective plastic sleeve. The few friends she has made here, she said, are the women she has met at Catholic Charities…

Sitting inside Catholic Charities offers a glimpse of the constant need: this family needs extra cash to pay the utility bill; this single mother cannot find child care to allow her to work a graveyard shift; that elderly man who came from Mexico has no way to pay for his medication…

Imelda Santana, whose desk is just a few feet away from the entrance, is often the first stop for requests. Ms. Santana is empathetic — just a couple of years ago she needed help after her husband left her and she lost her job as a loan officer amid the housing crisis. After working as a volunteer for months, Ms. Santana was hired to sift through requests to see which families the organization might assist. Even on the best days, she said, there are more demands than they can handle. …

‘We have people here who used to make donations now knowing what it is to run out of toilet paper in their house and not have the money to buy more,’ she said.

Catholic Charities is often the first stop for those in need, non-Catholics and Catholics alike, throughout the United States. The hungry family such as Ms. Acosta’s, the neglected child and the lonely senior come to us for help and hope. We rebuild lives and touch almost every human need promptly, locally, day in and day out, always with compassion and dignity.

Do you need help?

• Call our Catholic Charities Help Line at 888-744-7900
Email us through our contact form.

Read the full story in The New York Times.

Catholic Church Aids Mayor’s Plan to Build Affordable Housing

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

“Catholic Church will aid Mayor de Blasio’s plan to add affordable housing,” reports New York Daily News Bureau chief Jennifer Fermino today, May 7, 2014, in the Daily News.

“De Blasio has turned to the Catholic Church for help with his plan to build 200,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years. The church will work with the city to create new affordable housing units and to preserve cheap apartments that are in use.”

Check out her full Daily News report below:

BY JENNIFER FERMINO

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF

Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 11:34 PM

Mayor de Blasio is turning to a higher power for help with his ambitious affordable housing plan.

De Blasio is banking on the Catholic Church to help him reach his lofty target of 200,000 affordable housing units over the next 10 years.

The church, mainly through its wing Catholic Charities, will work with the city to create new affordable housing units and to preserve cheap apartments that are already in use.
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Catholic leaders have already offered up the former site of St. Augustine in the Bronx — a 162-year-old church that closed in 2012 and was demolished in December — and have meetings planned to redevelop as many as 10 other sites, said Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, the executive director of Catholic Charities.

The site of St. Augustine’s alone could hold “somewhere” around 100 units of low-cost housing, he said.

Sullivan said housing is a basic human right, and helping people of all faiths find it is part of the church’s mission.

“Every person made in the image and likeness of God deserves a decent place to live,” he said.
In the past 40 years, the church has developed about 10,000 units of affordable housing in all five boroughs, he said.

It scouts suitable locations and then sets up non-profits to manage housing on the sites. Catholic Charities also repairs affordable housing units that have fallen into disrepair.

Read more online in the Daily News.

More than 6,000 units of affordable housing for financially strapped families, elderly persons and formerly homeless individuals have been developed in every borough of New York City thanks to the dedicated long-term commitment of parishes, clergy, religious communities, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Brooklyn and Queens and affiliated community-based organizations

“Let’s Get Started”: Catholic Charities and Archdiocese Stand Ready to Work With Mayor on Affordable Housing

Monday, May 5th, 2014

photoHis Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York and Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan applaud Mayor de Blasio’s just-announced $41 billion, five-borough, 10-year affordable housing plan to serve more than a half- million New Yorkers.

Called the most expansive and ambitious affordable housing agenda of its kind in the nation’s history, this plan to build or preserve 200,000 affordable apartments across all five boroughs was laid out today, May 5, 2014, by Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference at College Ave. in the Bronx. Mayor de Blasio pledged that the housing plan would reach New Yorkers ranging from those with very low incomes at the bottom of the economic ladder all the way to those in the middle class facing ever-rising rents in their neighborhoods.

“New York City’s current crisis of housing affordability threatens the basic human right to decent housing,” Cardinal Dolan said when he announced his support of the new housing plan.

“Since the 1960s, the Catholic Church in all boroughs of New York City, through parishes, religious communities, community-based organizations and Catholic Charities, has been at the heart of the development and preservation of affordable housing.

“I applaud the Mayor’s far-reaching 10-year plan to build and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units throughout our city, and the Church in all boroughs of New York City looks forward to continuing to work with NYC and Mayor de Blasio to help achieve this important affordable housing goal.”

The Catholic commitment to affordable housing in New York City is illustrated by over 50 years of experience constructing, preserving and rehabilitating housing for the poor, the low income working families, seniors and persons with special needs.

Through the dedicated long-term commitment of parishes, clergy, religious communities, Catholic Charities and affiliated community based organizations more than 6,000 units of affordable housing for financially strapped families, elderly persons and formerly homeless individuals have been developed in every borough of New York City.

To emphasize this support, Msgr. Sullivan spoke in person at the mayor’s press conference today.

“Housing is a basic human right,” Msgr. Sullivan said. “The dignity of the human person – made in the image of God – is threatened when an individual or family does not have adequate housing.”

Msgr. Sullivan provided examples of the Church’s past, present and future commitment to affordable housing. They include Highbridge where for the past three decades Msgr. Sakano and Jorge Battista have rebuilt a neighborhood with almost 2000 units of housing. They include over 4000 units of affordable housing for seniors, families, the formerly homeless and persons with AIDS/HIV built under the leadership of Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens including Bishop DiMarzio, Robert Siebel and John Tynan. And they include 3000 units of housing built and preserved by religious communities such as the Ursalines and Dominicans and the Sisters of Charity, Church-related community organizations and leadership of Msgr. Jenik, particularly in West Farms and Bedford Park.

“Less than a mile to the east on the Franklin Avenue Hill there is property that has been St. Augustine parish’s sacred worship space spanning three centuries,” Msgr. Sullivan added. “That worship community, though still vibrant, has become smaller and now worships in a neighboring parish church.

“That Church building was razed to prepare the site for affordable housing. It stands ready to be part of this initiative. This site will remain a sacred space because on it individuals and families will have a decent place to live, fulfill their potential and raise their families. Here human dignity will be honored and this space held sacred (by creating affordable housing for non-Catholics and Catholics alike.)

“Mr. Mayor, thank you for this initiative. Let’s get started.”

He Knows How Bad It Can Get: Former Undocumented Minor Reaches Out to Others

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

By Alice Kenny

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Photo credit: Naperville Sun – Elvis Garcia (L) as forward for Naperville North High School, Naperville, Illinois.

Fifteen years old, hungry and alone, Elvis Garcia hitched rides, scrambled atop freight trains, and dragged himself through deserts for 1,200 miles to reach his promised land, the United States.

His native Honduras had turned into a wasteland where teenage gangs held shootouts on village streets. Nearly half the nation’s full-time workers earn less than the minimum wage. Many work full time yet earn just $5 per day. Children have little to do but play pick-up soccer games with deflated balls. Many parents are MIA, some raped and killed, others fleeing in search of better lives.

Now, after nine years that included 49 days in a stifling El Paso, Texas detention center, helping hands from strangers and success in school and on the soccer field, Elvis counts himself among the lucky. Once an unaccompanied, undocumented minor, Elvis today is a U.S. citizen. He graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And he now works as a Catholic Charities Immigration and Refugee Services case manager and part-time soccer coach for a team of U.S. citizens and undocumented teens.

Elvis’ experience as a former unaccompanied minor and now a mentor to them offers a rare glimpse into challenges faced, possibilities for life-transforming success or abject failure and how help as small as a soccer ball or as big as legal team can make all the difference.

“In a nation that prides itself on the fact that everyone accused of a crime – murderers, rapists – has a right to a lawyer, undocumented immigrants, even when they are unaccompanied children, are not entitled to a public defender,” writes reporter Sonia Nazario in The New York Times. “These children – some as young as 2 years old – have no one to help them.”

Well, not no one. Fortunately for Elvis, a family he met agreed to sponsor him towards citizenship. And fortunately for a growing group of a young New Yorkers, Catholic Charities is stepping in to offer comprehensive support. Its immigration and refugee services staff helps apprehended unaccompanied children. They provide free legal representation. They offer case management support. And now, through a growing medical-legal partnership, they look out for the whole child, from giving needed immunizations to offering sports and a social life that help children stay in school and out of trouble.

Elvis is part of the team of Catholic Charities immigration specialists that provide this support. And while he values the key case management services he offers these lonely unaccompanied teens, some of his favorite, most valuable hours, he says, are the ones he spends volunteering each week coaching Saturday Soccer with teens from the Medical-Legal Partnership Immigrant Youth Clinic.

A joint partnership between Catholic Charities and Montefiore Hospital Community Pediatrics Children’s Health Programs, the clinic provides free medical, legal and mental health services to unaccompanied immigrant youth in the Bronx, regardless of immigration status. The program has now expanded to include Saturday Soccer through a partnership with South Bronx United, a non-profit in the South Bronx dedicated to fostering social change and academic achievement on and off the soccer field.

“Like me, a lot of these kids came to this country with no knowledge of the language and culture,” Elvis says as he kicks a ball on the team’s soccer field near Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx. “Soccer is something we know, something we did every day. Soccer is something we can relate to where everything else is new and different.”

Learn more about Catholic Charities Immigrant and Refugee Services.

Struggling Teens Explore Careers in Engineering

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Teens from Washington Heights, where per–capita income is half the New York average, balanced on scaffolding, learned the rudiments of how to build a high rise that won’t fall down and took their first steps towards becoming engineers at Liberty Science Center last Saturday, April 19, 2014.

The event, hosted by Catholic Charities Alianza Division and sponsored by the Society of Hispanic Professionals in Engineering, was designed to motivate minority students to explore the possibility of pursuing careers in engineering. Students from the High School for Media and Communications GPS program – short for Graduate, Prepare and Succeed – that participate in Catholic Charities’ Alianza Dominicana were bused from Washington Heights to the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City. There they met with engineering professionals who answered questions and peeked students’ curiosity as they explored the 300,000 square foot learning center.

Next up for these students is Engineering Day on Saturday, May 10. Also held also at the Liberty Science Center, teens will team up to build their own machines. These engineering immersion experiences fit the mission of Catholic Charities Alianza Dominicana, to assist children, youth and families break the cycle of poverty and fulfill their potential as members of the global economy.

Pushing for Worker Safety

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

By Alice Kenny

Today, April 24, 2014, marks the tragic one-year anniversary of the worst disaster in garment industry history, the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,129 workers.

Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan has taken an active role keeping this issue in the forefront.  He joined a delegation this past December that included New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, whose state pension investments include companies that contract with garment factories and Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to Bangladesh to observe garment industry conditions and meet with survivors and the families of victims.  Msgr. Sullivan published his concerns on blog posts and more recently in a New York Times editorial co-authored with Mr. Appelbaum.

“All of us must help minimize the human casualties of our global economy and ensure that the dignity of working people doesn’t end up on the clearance rack,” they wrote.

In this recent episode of JustLove, Catholic Charities’ weekly radio show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, The Catholic Channel 129, Msgr. Sullivan spoke again with Comptroller DiNapoli.

“It was a very moving experience,” DiNapoli said about their trip to Bangladesh, “with you, from the spiritual dimension and me from the investor side with our perspective… about social justice and worker rights.”

While western retailers and apparel brands are now pushing to improve safety at the Bangladesh factories they do business with, results, twelve months later, have fallen short.

Inspectors, The New York Times reports, have found problems in every factory they checked including, “buildings so overloaded that their columns had cracked, flammable fabric storage areas adjoining work spaces and fire stairways leading to the factory floor rather than outside the building.”

Second only to China, Bangladesh’s ready-made garment industry employs between three and four million workers.  Its history of corruption and slipshod work leaves open the potential for still greater loss of life.

“These heart-wrenching tragedies are not a sustainable business model,” Mr. DiNapoli said.  “They cannot keep this industry going if people are going to be maimed, injured or killed.”

Learn more on JustLove.

Read the full story in The New York Times