New York Times Neediest Cases

Fighting Evictions, a Single Mother Draws Strength From Her Children - New York Times

Gardenia Valerio’s two-bedroom apartment in the Soundview section of the Bronx, steps from the Bruckner Expressway, was welcoming and calm.

As soon as Ms. Valerio’s three children returned from finishing their homework after school at a nearby licensed day care center, a wave of energy washed over the apartment.

Ms. Valerio, who was born in the Dominican Republic, speaks some English but feels more comfortable when her children get extra help with their English while doing their homework. Her oldest child, Valeria, 9, proudly shared a student-of-the-month certificate she was awarded.

Small hands quickly scooped up toys, including the accessories to a dollhouse that has two tiny cribs, one for a boy and one for a girl. Ms. Valerio’s 5-year-old twins, Ashley and Rafael, and Valeria played games on tablets and on Ms. Valerio’s smartphone.

She made macaroni and cheese as her children settled in for the evening, changing from their school uniforms to more casual clothing.

They comfortably made their way from room to room, secure in their surroundings. But it was only five years ago that Ms. Valerio, now 30, and her children did not have a place to call their own. Her relationship with her partner had deteriorated, and they fell behind in the rent. While pregnant with her twins, she was evicted.

She went to her mother’s house, where she ended up staying for a few years. Later, she found an apartment on the same block as the one she had been evicted from earlier. Ms. Valerio got work as a home health aide, only to have her hours reduced. In March, facing eviction for a second time, she turned toCatholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, one of the organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund.

Catholic Charities negotiated with Ms. Valerio’s landlord to cut her rent to $1,175, from $1,400, and paid the back rent she owed, helping her avoid eviction proceedings that were pending in court. She also received help with a Family Eviction Prevention Supplement. With $900 a month from the program, her rent was reduced to $275.

Ms. Valerio lived in Puerto Rico before moving to the Bronx, where she dropped out of high school without fully mastering English. She now plans to earn her high school equivalency diploma, improve her English and eventually train to become a medical assistant.

Catholic Charities used $379.53 from the Neediest Cases Fund to pay for markers, crayons and backpacks for her children for school.

Ms. Valerio said through a Spanish interpreter that she had drawn strength and motivation from her children. They relied on her, she said, so she could not let them down.

Their father visits occasionally, but he is not a consistent, dependable figure in the children’s lives. She is raising them largely on her own. Ms. Valerio said she was a single parent, but that with her children, she had a family.

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