Posts Tagged ‘homelessness’

After Sleeping with Her Baby on the Subway, Homeless Woman & Child Rebuild Their Lives

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 9.37.33 PM‘Amina Gilmore spent one of her first nights of homelessness on the No. 1 train, guarding her 1-year-old son as he slept,’ writes John Otis in this New York Times Neediest Cases story published on Sunday. ‘The next day she went to class. Even as her life shifted and balances wavered in a few short years, Ms. Gilmore kept her eyes fixed on her goal…’

Unsure of where to turn, Ms. Gilmore (a college student thrown out of her mother’s home) spent the night riding the No. 1 train to the end of the line and back.

‘I was sleeping with one eye open,’ she said…

The next morning, they made their way to a storage center, where they changed clothes in the locker unit she rents. She dropped him off at day care and went to class. There, she broke down and cried. Her professor took her to a social worker at Monroe College who helped her find a hotel that night and then a spot at the Elinor Martin Residence for Mother & Child in New Rochelle, an affiliate of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York.

Read the full New York Times story here.


13% Spike in Number of Homeless New Yorkers

Monday, November 25th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

The homeless population increased by 13% in New York City at the beginning of this year, reports this recent article in The New York Times.

The shelter population reached levels not seen since the Depression era; a record 64,060 homeless people were counted on the street and in shelters this past winter according to an annual survey by HUD.

Nearly a quarter of all homeless people – 23% – are under 18.

A rise in families who could no longer pay their rent — a problem that is more acute in areas where affordable housing is scarce and rents are especially high – has driven the increase, according to federal officials. The group of very poor renters who pay more than half their income in rent and are struggling to hold onto their homes has grown by 43% nationwide since 2007, housing officials added.

If you are facing homelessness and need help, please call us at Catholic Charities. We support a vast network of emergency shelters, temporary and transitional housing and permanent affordable housing to help homeless families and individuals.

Eviction Prevention

Families and individuals who, for whatever reason, are facing the loss of a home or apartment are assisted by highly trained Catholic Charities caseworkers to prevent eviction and homelessness. Staff will assess the situation and create a comprehensive plan to respond to the immediate emergency and help avoid future crisis. Caseworkers will work with landlords, legal services, and financial management programs to help access rent subsidies and other government programs to assist families and individuals relocate to a new home.

Emergency Shelters

Parishes and other community organizations provide temporary shelter and respite for people living on the street. Operated mainly by volunteers, Catholic Charities provides assistance to these shelters and can help those in need access their services.

Temporary and Transitional Residences

Transitional, supported housing is an important component to the network of housing resources provided by Catholic Charities. Dedicated religious women have often taken the lead in developing and operating these housing programs. Some residences are specifically designed to serve the needs of women and their children, while others are available to the general population. Most offer a variety of services to assist the homeless in moving towards permanent housing and independence.

Permanent Affordable Housing

Affordable housing developed by Catholic Charities and other parish’s decades ago remain a precious, yet precarious resource. Catholic Charities has worked to make the Association of Catholic Homes an important vehicle not only for preserving existing housing but also for developing new affordable housing in the Archdiocese. All of these housing units have specific eligibility criteria, and many have significant waiting lists.
Catholic Charities Is Here to Help.

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  • Call the Catholic Charities Help Line at 888-744-7900.

Abandoned as a Child, Mother Fights to Provide Better Life for Her Toddler

Friday, November 8th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Abandoned as a child, Venus Rivera bounced from one group home to another from Queens to White Plains.

“After a while, you’re just like: ‘Where’s my home? Who cares about me? Nobody cares about me. I’m doing this by myself,'” she said.

She and her husband, David Rivera, were determined to build a better life for themselves and their young son, Ares, 3.

But when the gym where Mr. Rivera worked as a custodian cut back on his hours, the mother whose children Ms. Rivera used to care for lost her job and the housing subsidy they received suddenly ended, the Rivera family faced homelessness once again.

“We just have each other,” Ms. Rivera said.  “That’s it.”

But, thanks to Catholic Charities, they were not alone.

 Read their story in today’s New York Times. 

From the Shadows to the Light – Undocumented Family Rebuilds Their Life

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

By Teresa Santiago

When Hurricane Sandy began assaulting the Midland Beach area of Staten Island, Jesus Maria Aguilar, his wife Patricia and son Allan did not imagine the devastation that it would leave in its wake.

They lived in Midland Avenue right in the middle of a flood zone area but did not receive any warning or evacuation advisory leading up to the super storm. If warning signs were posted they did not understand because they were not in Spanish. “The day of the storm we were scared because we were feeling the strength and power of the storm. The wind and rain was like nothing we had ever experienced. By the time we decided to leave our apartment the water was already up to our thighs,” recalls Patricia.

The Maria Aguilar family went to stay with a friend on Tompkins Avenue. Less than an hour of being in their friend’s home they received a call from a neighbor informing them that their apartment building was on fire.

The family was not able to see the damage until days later after the flood waters had receded. They were told that the fire department tried to stop the fire but could not get near the building because the flood waters were too high. When the family was able to go back to their home they were totally devastated. “Nothing was left but ashes. We lost everything but the clothes on our backs and the few things we packed to weather the storm,” recalled Jesus.

“I ran into the freezing water towards the building thinking that there was something I could save,” said Patricia. “We work so hard for the few things we have. To see everything that we have worked for gone was incomprehensible. I was stunned.”

The fire occurred when 90 mile per hour winds and rain caused an electrical short in the power line in front of the Maria Aguilar’s apartment building.

For months the Maria Aguilar family lived with their nephew with no help or direction on where to go for help. Since they are undocumented they were not able to receive any federal government aid including FEMA.

“We were desperate. We had no money. I worked when I could find it. Because of my arthritis and diabetes acting up it made it very difficult to find work during this time. A neighbor told my nephew about El Centro del Inmigrante, (El Centro), about the services they provided and that it was all confidential. We immediately went and started our recovery process,” said Jesus.

At El Centro the family met with Catholic Charities disaster case manager Melba Rodriguez and received immediate help, gift cards for food and basic necessities as well as the down payment for their new apartment. What they urgently needed was a refrigerator and air conditioner. The family was using plastic coolers and ice to keep their perishable food cold and edible. In early September, Jesus received $1,300 in Home Depot gift cards to purchase his refrigerator and air conditioner.

El Centro is one of the community-based agencies subcontracted by Catholic Charities to provide a locally-based disaster case manager for each family that have unmet needs related to Hurricane Sandy. El Centro addresses the needs of newly arrived immigrant day laborers and their families. Through immigrant and labor advocacy, educational workshops, labor leadership training, and emergency intervention for hunger, homelessness, health and safety needs, El Centro provides opportunities for economic empowerment, community-building and organizing.

Catholic Charities has a proven track record of managing disaster cases beginning with the 911 terror attack in 2001 then Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee in late 2011. The NYS Division of Homeland Security Office of Emergency Management, (OEM), has an existing contract with Catholic Charities to manage the DCM program for the 34 counties that were impacted by the Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee and requested that Catholic Charities expand on this experience and manage the long term disaster case management program for survivors of Sandy.

The program is designed to provide a locally-based disaster case manager for each family in the 13 impacted New York counties that have unmet needs related to Hurricane Sandy. By funding networks of community-based agencies, NYS hopes to provide easy access to support residents seeking help and to avoid duplication of services.

Catholic Charities has subcontracted with 20 locally-based not-for-profit organizations with demonstrated expertise in the provision of case management services to serve impacted communities. El Centro is one of these community-based agencies funded.

Through this program Catholic Charities case manager Rodriguez has laid out a long term plan for the Maria Aguilar family that has assessed their immediate and long term situation. She has assisted them in receiving the aid that they need to get back on their feet. “The Maria Aguilar family has gone through an extremely difficult life altering situation, but they are resilient and hard working people,” said Ms. Rodriguez.

“We finally feel that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we are feeling better emotionally, physically and finally feeling hopeful for a good future. We are extremely grateful for the help that Ms. Rodriguez, Catholic Charities and El Centro has given us. I don’t know what we would have done without the help” acknowledged Patricia.

“I thank God everyday that we are alive and that we suffered no injuries, material things can always be replaced. We came to this country from Acapulco, Mexico nine years ago with nothing and we have always worked hard. We will continue to build our lives. It is the only thing we can do,” concluded Jesus.

A House of Widows and Orphans

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

 By Alice Kenny

The widow of a Marine Corps veteran, Tanya Thomas knows firsthand about pain and loss.  Now as the first graduate of Grace Institute’s training program for female veterans and their families — and after landing a job at Catholic Charities — she knows firsthand about success.

Tanya stands among a growing number of female veterans and military spouses who took a disproportionate hit during the Great Recession and battle homelessness and unemployment.  The jobless rate for female Gulf-War era veterans has been stuck at nearly 13 percent for the past two years, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“I can’t begin to say what a gift going to Grace and getting a job like this is,” Tanya said.  “It’s helping me build my future.”

When her children were ages two and four, her husband, U.S. Marine Dwight Anthony Thomas, developed a blood clot in his brain that ultimately killed him.

“I couldn’t get out of bed after he died,” she said.  “It’s been a long road back to enjoying life.”

Then, when cancer claimed the life of Tanya’s aunt, Tanya took on the responsibility of caring for her aunt’s two teenage children as well.

“We were basically a house of widows and orphans,” Tanya said.

Fortunately Tanya found out about Grace Institute’s new program for female veterans and their families.  The program, supported in part by the Clinton Global Initiative, is designed to hone the work skills of this underserved population and help them find work.

“Our commitment to helping veterans, never ends” says Jolene Varley Handy, a Senior Director at Catholic Charities affiliate Grace Institute, “because their commitment to our country never ends.”

Grace Institute, an affiliate of Catholic Charities, has been providing tuition-free job training skills for women in New York City for more than 100 years.  Its new program builds on this success, working with military spouses and family members to assist with the transition to life off the base. The program includes intensive computer, business writing and career development classes.  It prepares students for interviews and draws on its extensive lists of employer contacts to arrange meetings and help the students find work.

Tanya landed a job as soon as she graduated.  She now works as a case manager with Catholic Charities.  Her specialty is eviction prevention.

“It’s great to assist people with empowering themselves,” she said.  “I know the feeling from both ends.”


If you are a female veteran or family member and would like to take advantage of this tuition-free program:

If you are a New York City employer seeking trained, responsible staff:

Ignoring Limitations and Aiming to Inspire

Monday, January 7th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Otis Hampton, who has cerebral palsy and was abandoned at birth, once walked 40 miles in Manhattan and swelled with pride when he reached his destination.

Not only does Mr. Hampton, 22, refuse to accept limitations, but he also strives to inspire others.

“I feel like when I take walks, or when I’m walking in general, there may be a kid I know with cerebral palsy who’s been wanting to take a step without falling that finally gets up out of his or her wheelchair and takes those steps for the first time,” he said.

Mr. Hampton lives at Create, a shelter for homeless young men affiliated with Catholic Charities.

Read his story published in The New York Times.

Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness: HomeBase and How You Can Help

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Catholic Charities is helping mark the 25th anniversary of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the first major federal legislation to address homelessness, with the expansion of the Catholic Charities HomeBase program.

The McKinney-Vento Act, landmark legislation when it was first enacted in July 1987, helps homeless men, women and children break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. At HomeBase, a city-wide program prompted by the Act, families and individuals receive key support to prevent them from drifting into homelessness and to develop plans for long-term housing stability.

Support for Catholic Charities HomeBase comes in part from the McKinney-Vento Act and its Emergency Solutions Grant for homeless-prevention services to families without children and single adults. The bulk of funding comes from the Emergency Assistance to Families (EAF) program to supports assistance to families with children.

Eligible Services for Families with Children:

• Case management
• Emergency Financial Assistance
• Job Training
• Financial education
• Mediation
• Budgeting

Eligible Services for families without children and single adults

• Housing relocation and stabilization services
• Rental Assistance

Please watch and listen to how Catholic Charities feeds the hungry and shelters the homeless and learn how you can help.

Casita Maria Kick Starts Kids’ Reading Program

Monday, February 13th, 2012

By Marianna Reilly

February 13, 2012 — Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, a Catholic Charities agency that has been serving youth in the South Bronx since 1934, recently launched a new library and reading program for children in need.

The program, created with the help of Catholic Charities volunteers through the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund and NYC Service Volunteer Project, is enriching Casita’s services in the South Bronx and engaging local teenagers in volunteerism.

Casita Maria kids show off some of the books that have been donated to their new library.

“We can improve our reading skills by having more book choices in our library,” says tenth grade student Zoila Rodriquez who, along with 40 fellow teens donates her time as a volunteer reader.

The new library initially hoped to house 500 new books. But thanks to successful volunteer efforts, the library has more than doubled its goal. Catholic Charities donated more than 500 books through its annual Christmas toy drive, volunteer efforts triggered the donation of 500 more, and book donations continue piling in.

To help house this multitude of books, Catholic Charities donated funds to help transform a drab conference room into a library with wall-to-wall oak and pine shelving and glass shelf doors. Catholic Charities also funded the transportation of more than 50 Casita Maria children and staff members to a New York Times event to celebrate these new volunteer initiatives on February 2.

Foster Alcantara, a teenager who helped lead the book drive, drew huge applause when he accepted the award from the NYC Service Volunteer Project on behalf of Casita Maria.

“I dream of the day when I hear a famous person interviewed saying ‘I learned to read at Casita Maria,’” Alcantra told the crowd gathered at the Times Center in midtown Manhattan.

On February 8, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan visited Casita Maria to bless the new library, meet with the children, and listen to a musical performance by some of the youth from Casita Maria music programs.

Casita Maria moved to the South Bronx from the agency’s original location in East Harlem in 1961. Their programs include homeless services, drug rehabilitation, violence prevention, gang intervention, teen pregnancy prevention, and much more.

Our (Invisibly) Homeless Neighbors

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

By Marianna Reilly

Photo from the New York Times

February 7, 2012 — Think you know who the homeless are? You might be surprised by the New York Times special feature on the “invisible homeless.” They don’t live on the streets, or in doorways – they are families enduring a day-to-day reality that often includes hours-long subway commutes, day care, food pantries and shelters.

In our community, there are a staggering 40,000 homeless children and adults currently living in shelters. This is an all-time high for New York, and—picture this—enough to fill the stands in Citi Field.

You probably see these individuals every day without even knowing they are homeless. They turn to shelters because of unemployment, loss of income, eviction or domestic violence. Some work multiple jobs and long hours but still remain entrenched below the poverty line.

The Times describes these families, which make up three quarters of New York’s homeless shelter population, as “cloaked in a deceptive, superficial normalcy”:

“They do not sleep outside or on cots on armory floors. By and large, their shoes are good; some have smartphones. Many get up each morning and leave the shelter to go to work or to school. Their hardships — poverty, unemployment, a marathon commute — exist out of sight.”

 In the past few years, local charities have seen the need for eviction prevention assistance and other housing related services increase dramatically. In the 2011 year, Catholic Charities prevented eviction for more than 4,800 families, and helped an additional 17,000 families find emergency shelter, transitional housing or permanent affordable housing.

Learn more about Catholic Charities services for those in danger of homelessness, and contact us for help.

What I Discovered in the Bronx During New York’s Homelessness Survey

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

By Richard Bertin

February 1, 2012 — On the night of Monday, January 30, I took part in NYC’s 10th annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) — a citywide survey administered by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and dependent upon thousands of volunteers to count the homeless found in public spaces. I had mixed feelings in the days leading up to this volunteer project, but when I returned home, at around 4am, I brought back with me a profound sense of gratitude for everyday things that many take for granted.

This year, the volunteer team from Catholic Charities New York was dedicated to the Bronx. Along with hundreds of fellow volunteers, we gathered at one of two sites — Lehman College or PS/IS 194. I chose Lehman College since it was closest to my apartment and because of my familiarity with the area. After being rounded up into “teams” and receiving a detailed training session from DHS reps, we were given neighborhood walking maps and finally set off into the night at half past midnight.

My team was assigned the Riverdale section of the Bronx, an affluent enclave known more for its beauty than its homeless population. My teammates and I were a bit puzzled over this assignment but still took our orders seriously.

The eight of us resembled a civic-minded variation of “The Apprentice,” as we spent the first 30 minutes trying to determine who had the best strategy for canvassing the 10-block radius of sidewalks and alleys. My team was composed of very different and colorful characters, each passionate about the HOPE project. There was Willy B., a large, affable man who talked about how he “does this for a living” each night for a local homeless shelter named The Living Room; Allison, a young off-duty police officer who came all the way from upstate to take part in the survey; Netti, an older Turkish cab driver who was our best “wheel-man”, and many others I will not forget.

Our first area was the most difficult. A Google Map print out with arrows pointing us into different walking directions served as our guide. By the time we got to our location it was after 1am. In such a quiet, secluded area, we were the only souls moving around the stillness of the neighborhood. It was so quiet that someone opened their window and shouted at us “Shut up already! It’s almost two in the morning!” I shot back, “Sorry Sir; we are on official city business here!”  After an hour-long search of the area, we moved on to the second and third maps.

Truth be told, I learned more about homelessness from my team members than anything else. Willy B. explained to me the crucial importance of affordable housing, since many people often don’t realize they are only one pay check or illness away from homelessness. Allison shared stories of “code blue” nights, when police officers perform rescue missions to save those stranded on the streets during life-threatening frigid temperatures and snowstorms.

These stories and these people are what will stick with me most from the evening of HOPE.

As we roamed from sidewalk to sidewalk, alley to alley, and bench to bench, we didn’t find anyone. If we did, we were instructed by DHS to ask them the questions of the survey and ultimately direct them towards a nearby shelter. I didn’t think this was the most accurate method for determining the homeless population, but HOPE is designed to be more of a homeless program evaluation method than a census.

Similar to the infamous “mystery shoppers” that anyone who has ever worked retail is familiar with, the HOPE survey serves as a snapshot to determine how well New York Homeless Services is doing in keeping people off the street.

By 3:30am we were finished but hadn’t found any homeless in our assigned areas. With the exception of a stray alley cat, our tours indicated that Riverdale doesn’t seem to have any homeless problems.  When we returned to Lehman College we found out that most teams, 10 in total, had similar results.

I did wonder – what would these results look like on a warmer night?

As New Yorkers, we are familiar with homelessness. We see it as we bustle through the sidewalks on our way to work. We ignore it when we burry our heads into our tablets on the train while someone pleads with an entire subway car for help.  It’s just one of those harsh realities of living here that we come face to face with each day and yet manage to keep from intruding on our lives. As we roamed the streets, I couldn’t help but think about my warm bed waiting for me. When I finally got back home and dove head first into my mattress I thought how fortunate I was to have this luxury.