Posts Tagged ‘Case Manager’

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.

Back-To-School Gift Cards for Families Hurt by Hurricane Sandy

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Reaching out to Staten Island students still suffering from Hurricane Sandy, Catholic Charities and its partners distributed 150 Back-to-School $250 Visa gift certificates last week at the Catholic Charities Community Services Center at 120 Anderson Avenue.

Catholic Charities Staten Island partnered at the event with Lutheran Social Services of New York, the Jewish Community Center of Staten Island, Center for Independence of the Disabled New York, and Arab American Family Support Center.

Were you hurt by Hurricane Sandy and are still struggling to recover?

Whether you have applied for FEMA or not — even if you were not eligible or were denied assistance — there may be local resources available for you. A trained, compassionate case manager can work one-on-one with you to:

  • Answer your questions about recovery
  • Develop a plan to address your needs
  • Connect you with appropriate community resources
  • Determine what financial assistance may be available to you
  • Advocate on your behalf with service and benefit providers

Call the Sandy Referral Line: 855-258-0483

Call Today – Help is Here: Monday – Friday: 9a.m. to 5p.m.

Click here to find a local agency.

Donors and Devastation: Connecting the Dots

Monday, August 5th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Driven in on flatbed trucks, dropped off from backpacks and carted in on wagons, donations for Sandy survivors began arriving in Staten Island after Super Storm destroyed nearly everything in its wake.

As donors pulled in, many making their first visit ever to this island floating between Brooklyn and Bayonne, they faced the same key question.  Where could donations be safely stored so they would be disbursed quickly to those most in need?

Catholic Charities stepped forward immediately to offer its cavernous gym at Mission of the Immaculate Virgin Mount Loretto in Staten Island.  Now serving as a makeshift warehouse and distribution center organized and staffed by Catholic Charities, the gym is stocked with heaters, dehumidifiers, tools and supplies. Most resources are limited as donated stock can change daily.

The donation center illustrates yet another support system cobbled together by social service and government agencies, corporations and private donors to help Sandy survivors rebuild their homes and lives.

“What’s available today may be gone by tomorrow,” says Catholic Charities Community Development Coordinator Lourdes Ferrer. “With Disaster Case Management things are constantly evolving.”

Statewide, more than 5,000 of Sandy survivors receive disaster case management services.  Managed by Catholic Charities, the New York State Disaster Case Management Program whittles down the complex system of disaster support by providing survivors with a single point of contact to access a broad range of resources.

Catholic Charities hired two full-time staff members to oversee the donation center and ensure fair distribution of its wares.  The agency also partnered with other Staten Island bases organizations to assure that all residents affect by Sandy, have access to the donated items and materials.

“When disasters happen, people just want everything fixed so they can get back to life as it was, but sometimes that’s not possible; sometimes there are no quick fixes,” Ms. Ferrer says.  “Disaster case managers play a very important and difficult role in the recovery process.  They have to maintain people’s confidence and keep them calm while walking them through a recovery process that can take years.”

  • If you were affected by Superstorm Sandy or know someone who was, contact your Case Manager to access needed materials.
  • If you do not have a case manager, contact the Sandy Referral Line at 855-258-0483.