Hardship Makes a New Home in the Suburbs

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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.

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