Keeping Faith, Even When Home Is an Uncertain Place

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By John Otis

When asked to tell the story of his life and of the circumstances that left him homeless, Eugene Manu, 21, tripped over his words, his testimony stalled by moments of nervousness and trepidation, filled with false starts and constant backpedaling.

It is no wonder his thoughts could not find purchase. Mr. Manu’s meandering speech seems to reflect the fact that he’s never known any sense of stability or permanence. He is a young man who, despite a strong faith in God, and the guidance offered by certain family members, finds himself better acquainted with doubt and feelings of abandonment.

“I have never considered any place home,” he said.

Three months into Mr. Manu’s life, his mother, unmarried and barely scraping by at a minimum wage job, sent him to Ghana to live with his grandmother. He remained there for seven years before coming to the United States to join his mother in New York, where he would end up shuffled between an array of homeless shelters and foster homes, before he was returned to his grandmother’s care in Ghana at age 15.

Last spring, while living at Create, a Harlem shelter affiliated with Catholic Charities, he acquired his G.E.D. and was accepted at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. But at about the same time, he was hospitalized with pneumonia, caused by complications from the hereditary sickle cell anemia he was born with, and nearly died. “I felt like I was drifting away,” he said. “If it wasn’t for God, I would have lost my life.”

Read Mr. Manu’s story in The New York Times. Learn how Catholic Charities is helping him rebuild his life.

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