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Catholic Charities’ housing assistance allows single mom to dream big

mother and child walking sunsetting
At the boardwalk. Photo: Tim Mossholde

By Peter Feuerherd

When New York’s housing crisis hit home for Carla (a pseudonym) from the Bronx, she turned to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York for help. It is a decision she does not regret.

“Right now, things are going great,” she said, describing life with her four children in a newly-found apartment, with her associate’s degree from a local college while preparing to be a phlebotomist, the person who draws blood at medical facilities.

Last year, a single mom in her thirties, Carla found herself arrayed against forces which overwhelmed her.

Her partner was an abuser. Covid made things worse. Her work as a home health aide was terminated because of pandemic dangers. She and her partner, with the four children, were together nearly all the time, and she needed out.

“We were always home. It made my life stressful. Every day I thought about how I would escape,” she said.

She went to Catholic Charities. There she was guided through the thicket of programs available for her by Priscilla Torres, outreach coordinator in Charities’ northeast Bronx office.

Ms. Torres, who frequently works on housing issues, said each case is unique. As outreach coordinator, she works with the office of the Bronx District Attorney and other government agencies to get benefits and protection for women like Carla.

Often the work involves advocacy, which, in Carla’s case, meant helping her with the self-confidence needed to address her situation. In many cases, said Ms. Torres, those in desperate straits, facing the city’s housing crisis on their own, don’t have the confidence or the resources to bargain with landlords and city agencies.

“She was very scared. She feared for her safety,” said Ms. Torres. “It was urgent for us to get her out as soon as possible.”

Catholic Charities helped with the entire process of moving. The new apartment was inspected for habitability, the agency hired movers, and Carla was registered for a training program in phlebotomy, a job which is likely, with the national health crisis, to be in demand for years.

Another approach, besides the material assistance, was emotional support, “teaching her self-confidence, so she knows she has rights and can stand up for herself.” Now Carla beams with confidence. “There’s respect for her as a person who has knowledge,” said Ms. Torres.

After seven years working with Catholic Charities, Ms. Torres said she likes making an impact in the lives of poor people in the northeast Bronx.

“I’m actively able to make a change, to fulfill needs,” she said. The results of her work can be seen in the stable life, and the potential, for families such as Carla’s.

“I am looking forward to continuing my education,” said Carla, who sees a bright future for herself, having escaped from the entanglement of an abusive relationship and a new life with a new apartment and renewed work prospects.

“Catholic Charities is amazing,” she said.

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