Immigrants And Refugees
Neediest Cases

For Parents, a Lifeline in Unemployment: The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund

Louis Armand and his daughter, Chiara, needed help with bills. Credit Gabby Jones for The New York Times. Reproduced with permission.

Readjusting to their households’ needs, New Yorkers out of work found “there will be people who will help you.”

After living with his daughter in a studio for a few years, Louis Armand was hoping to make a change. He had been working at an event venue and wanted to move to a larger apartment so she could have more privacy.

That hope was put on hold when the pandemic hit New York and he was laid off, leaving him worried about paying for their basic needs. “It was challenging,” Mr. Armand said.

For him, though, after previous struggles with homelessness and with alcoholism, staying positive was key.

“I do the best that I can with whatever I get, and I move on,” he said.

The abrupt halt to Mr. Armand’s work in events was a setback that was difficult with his daughter, Chiara, under his care. Since she came to live with him in 2018, he had made it a priority to raise her with a positive mind-set and to help her build a solid foundation.

“Three years later, I look at my daughter and I’m like, ‘Wow,’” said Mr. Armand, 65. “Chiara is a very intelligent young lady.”

His approach came from wanting her road to adulthood to be different from his. Mr. Armand moved to New York with his family from Colombia in 1971, and in 1976 he joined the Army. After serving for three years, he was honorably discharged, and he moved back to New York and then to California.

Throughout his youth Mr. Armand struggled with alcoholism, and in California he got sober and began taking classes at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, first at its Irvine campus, which is now closed, and then at the Los Angeles campus. He graduated with an associate degree and moved back to New York, where he worked in the fashion industry and the events business.

In 2004, Chiara was born, and Mr. Armand and Chiara’s mother separated not long after. Mr. Armand began to struggle financially, and was homeless for three years, before eventually moving to the studio apartment where he now lives with Chiara.

Since being laid off last year, Mr. Armand has made ends meet through unemployment assistance and occasional bartending shifts. In September, he applied for Social Security benefits. But it was still difficult to cover the basics. So in October, Bigs & Littles NYC Mentoring, a beneficiary agency of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York, provided Mr. Armand with $1,000 from The Neediest Cases Fund to help him pay for his daughter’s braces, her school clothes and utility bills.

Even though being open about financial struggles can be intimidating, Mr. Armand said that he encourages other parents to ask for assistance when they need it.

“We have to reach out and go and ask for help,” Mr. Armand said. “There will be people that will help you.”

As Chiara goes through her senior year of high school, he is helping her with college applications.

“I think she is on the right path,” Mr. Armand said. “She’s looking forward.”

And Mr. Armand has begun designing his own lingerie brand, a business he has dreamed of since he was in college. He cites Kandinsky and Versace as some of his biggest influences.

“Despite my age,” he said, “I’m not done yet.”

Continue to The New York Times for the full article.

Catholic Charities is among 10 beneficiaries supported by the The Fund’s 110th annual campaign.

The Fund began in 1912, when The Times’s publisher, Adolph S. Ochs, sent a journalist to report about those facing hardship and receiving help from social services agencies in New York City. The goal was to publish 100 stories. The short articles struck a chord with readers, who donated about $3,600. Since then, The Times has worked with nonprofit organizations each year and has raised over $320 million in total, which has been distributed not just to organizations in the city, but also domestically and internationally.

Bigs & Littles, NYC Mentoring is an agency of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York. 

In 1902 the ladies of charity founded the nationwide girls mentoring movement by pioneering a program for vulnerable girls and families involved in the New York Children’s Court. Now serving both boys and girls, Bigs & Littles NYC Mentoring has been critical in uniting NYC communities and uplifting children and families across the city for over 119 years. Bigs & Littles NYC Mentoring strives to transform the lives of children through one-to-one mentoring, while strengthening entire families in hardship.