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New York Times Neediest Cases: Stories Behind the Stories

Posted on November 18, 2016 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

David Nublett & the Car Crash That Changed His Life


David Nublett

For more than a century The New York Times has spotlighted “Neediest Cases,” folks facing extreme hardships, and welcomed help for them from readers.  And for more than a decade as senior writer and liaison between Catholic Charities NY and The New York Times I’ve had the honor to meet some of these brave folks and the dedicated case managers that help them.  So this year, I’d like to share with you the stories behind The New York Times Neediest Cases stories, the courage of the people we are honored to serve and the caseworkers who plow through roadblocks to get them the services they need.

David Nublett, 57, and profiled yesterday by New York Times reporter John Otis, valued his independence above everything.  So he worked two full-time jobs – security guard by day, maintenance man by night – to make ends meet with $12/hour salaries.  But the jobs along with his independence came to a crashing halt on February 18, 2012 when, while crossing Westchester Ave. in the Bronx, he was hit head on by a car. 

Days later and still woozy from a concussion, he woke with tubes down his throat in Jacoby Hospital.  Since then he has undergone multiple operations including having his spleen removed, pins screwed into his right shoulder and a plate pushed into his ribs. Multiple operations remain including left knee replacement. 

This former hard-working laborer now alternates between wheelchair, walker and cane.  His memory is impaired by the concussion and his altered life leaves him increasingly depressed. 

Because the driver who hit him was impoverished insurance covered his medical bills but nothing else.  So this now disabled man who worked hard all his life was left with almost no money coming in.  He fell behind on his rent and faced eviction.

“I never asked nobody for nothing and now look at me,” he told me, choking back tears as he sat in a wheelchair.  “I don’t want charity but at least the lady who hit me could give me a ‘sorry,’ bake me a cake.  She’s still driving and look at me.”

But it was hard to look; hard to understand why so much tragedy could strike such a good man.  It was hard, too, because I was still catching my breath after scaling the 72 stairs to his third-story walkup, 72 stairs that leave him imprisoned, depressed and alone.

Fortunately, he reached out for help to our Catholic Charities Homebase program. In partnership with the NYC Department of Homeless Services, our staff provides free eviction prevention services, intervening before folks like Mr. Nublett lose their home. And we provide support services afterwards to give them what they need to rebuild their lives.

For Mr. Nublett, this intervention came from our case manager Keisha Edwards, a strong woman with a hoarse voice and a soft smile.  Getting Mr. Nublett’s nearly $4,000 rental debt covered before he faced eviction was not easy.  But she didn’t back down until she negotiated a deal between the Department of Social Services and Homebase funds to cover the debt. 

And covering his debt was just the beginning. Mr. Nublett needed a way to meet expenses going forward.  Almost worse, how could he spend day and night alone in this dark apartment with little more furniture than a hospital bed and wheelchair, a place where medicine vials line the windowsill because there is no place else to put them?

So Keisha came to the rescue again.  She successfully encouraged Mr. Nublett to find a friend to share the apartment and rental expenses.  And she drew on funds Catholic Charities receives from The New York Times to buy him a sturdy kitchen table, chairs, dresser and medicine cabinet.

Mr. Nublett still faces more surgeries and a long recovery.  But he no longer faces them alone.  Thanks to this support he has begun to look towards the future.

“I want to work two jobs like I used to so I can build up a nice savings,” he told me, “go across the street, sit down at McDonalds like I used to.”

Read Mr. Nublett’s profile in The New York Times.