Roaches, Mold & Asthma: How Catholic Charities Helped a Family Leave this Nightmare Behind

Posted on May 17, 2016 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

One Family’s Story

Roach bites dotted baby Clinton’s face.  Big brother Gerard, 11, hooked himself up to a nebulizer daily because black mold growing up the walls in the family’s apartment aggravated his asthma.  And a leak from an upstairs apartment broke a hole in the wall behind the stove prompting sparks to cause a fire.  This is real life for Clinton, Gerard and their mom, Sonia.  And it is similar to lives of thousands of families struggling to find affordable housing in New York.

When Sonia refused to pay rent until the landlord repaired their dilapidated apartment the landlord tried to kick her family out. Sonia, already $10,000 in debt from a student loan to cover her medical assistant degree, felt overwhelmed.  For a while she had a decent-paying job thanks to her degree.  But she lost her job when the clinic closed.  Now she was back to cleaning offices, working in warehouses, dishing out fast food, any job she could find to pay her family’s expenses.

“I was stuck,” Sonia says.  “Then Catholic Charities helped me and changed my life.”

Catholic Charities represented Sonia in housing court, covered her back rent and, with the housing court’s support, demanded the landlord make prompt repairs. Meanwhile,  Catholic Charities gave Sonia a $200 gift card to Home Depot to pay for a hotplate to cook on while waiting for stove repairs.

Most important, Catholic Charities provided Sonia with career counseling.  And it  covered her $1400 tuition to learn how to do what she decided was her dream job, a phlebotomist.  With this career she could break out of the trap of poverty, afford a better apartment and build a better life for herself and her boys.

Balancing schoolwork, temporary work and raising her boys is tough, Sonia says.

“I gotta help them with their school work so sometimes I stay up all night to finish mine.”

But she is nearly done with classes.  Even better, she knows Catholic Charities will help her find a job when she gets her degree.

“Catholic Charities is different,” Sonia says.  “They tried to understand how I got into this predicament and how to help me get into a better situation so my family would never get stuck in a place like this again.

“I’m so blessed because I couldn’t have done this for myself.”

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

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