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Once Homeless & Suffocating, Young Man Lands Job, Home & College Degree

Posted on June 6, 2016 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

The True-Life Story of Renny Vilorio


Renny Vilorio at Create Inc.

Homeless, barely able to breathe and rushed to Bronx Lebanon Hospital every month, sometimes twice a month, for extended stays because of the severe asthma he has suffered since birth, Renny Vilorio began to think his dreams of an education and a better life were just that:  dreams. Fortunately, four years ago he found his way to Create Inc., a homeless shelter for young men affiliated with Catholic Charities. And now, four years later, he landed a job as a security guard and moved into his own apartment. Best of all, he will graduate college with a degree in public administration this December.

“Even if I’m sick, when it’s snowing or very hot and I feel suffocated I don’t miss school,” Renny says.  “My teachers always seem surprised to see me, saying ‘even healthy people would have skipped.’”

But skipping was out of the question. School and Create Inc. were the only places Renny felt secure.  Deserted in the Dominican Republic by his father, Renny came to the United States to join his mother when he was a teenager. He learned English, he says, by filling notebooks with words he heard and read on subways, then looking them up on Google Translate.

“I was like Dora the Explorer on the train,” he says. 

And like Dora, he learned English. In fact, he learned it so well he passed his citizenship exams and became a U.S. citizen. But his health and asthma continued to worsen. His respiratory system became so restricted that at times he could barely swallow water.  He went weeks without being able to eat. And even now, after hospitalizations and medical interventions, he still carries with him everywhere a bag packed with a battery-operated nebulizer, four Simbicort breathing devises and a host of medications to clear his lungs.

His mother, a home attendant and already financially overwhelmed, threw him out of their home during the cold winter of 2012 because she said worrying about his poor health plus listening to the drone of his breathing machines were one cross too many for her to bear.

When emergencies strike – abuse by a family member, fire in an apartment, whatever the cause –displaced people need a safe, temporary place to stay.  Catholic Charities provides transitional housing to help rebuild lives.

Some cater to youth.  Others help women, men or families.  They offer the help needed to move from homelessness to permanent housing -- and independence. 

Homeless, freezing and wheezing Renny finally found his way to Create Inc. two months later. The organization's specialty is helping young, homeless and confused men find their bearings and begin to build their lives.

So first it helped this then-high school dropout get his GED. Then it encouraged Renny to attend college. 

He landed a full scholarship to Hostos Community College. Catholic Charities helped him buy school clothes, a backpack, notebooks and pens so he could fit in.

“I’m convinced I can move forward,” Renny, now 26, says.  “It doesn’t matter my health problems or my past.  My future is not clear but I try.”

At Catholic Charities we provide the help and hope people need to move forward.

Contact Catholic Charities if you or someone you know is homeless and needs help.

Read more about Renny back when he qualified as a Neediest Case in The New York Times in November 2014.

Catholic Charities is responding to the needs of our neighbors during the 
COVID-19 pandemic.

For Help Call 888-744-7900