Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for December, 2014|Monthly archive page

Michael’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories, The worst of times on December 30, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Michael

Michael has relied on Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for about ten years, on and off. When he was homeless and unemployed he came to the soup kitchen for emergency help. He is still a guest here to help make ends meet, and to help keep his spirits up.

His lowest moment came after he had worked ten consecutive days at a street fair, earning $1500. That was to be his security deposit on a rental room. Exhausted from working so hard, he fell asleep in Penn Station, only to wake up and find his money had been stolen.

“I started crying and saying to myself, ” I can’t do a shelter”. Then I looked around and I saw a lot of people worse off than I am and I said to myself, “Things happen. You’ve got to make another plan and pick yourself up.”

That outlook on life helped Michael seek out and find the resources that  sustain his strength and health, many of them right here at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

“When I was homeless, the counselors here pointed me in the right direction, to organizations that would help with different things. I lost my eyeglasses when I was sleeping on the street, so they helped me with that. I needed high blood pressure medicine, that was a big thing.”

Michael utilized the outreach services at the soup kitchen, like Single Stop and Urban Justice, to get him going in the right direction towards clothing, housing and access to medical services.

While all of this helped him get back on his feet enough to land another  job, he needed a current i.d. in order to start working again since his old expired license had been stolen as well. In a catch 22 situation, Michael couldn’t afford the new i.d. he needed in order to start earning money.  Frustrated, he brought a letter from the new employer, explaining the situation, to a pastor at the soup kitchen. The pastor gave Michael the money he needed for new identification.

Today, Michael is the primary caretaker for his disabled brother who in return pays Micheal a $300-a-week salary.  He still confronts the obstacles that come with low income in an expensive city. At the soup kitchen he finds a way not only to save on food costs, but also to  gain “the spiritual strength that I need on a daily basis.”

“Sometimes you give up hope but when you are in that spiritual circle, you can have some peace.”

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On Achieving Section 8 Housing

In Keeping hope alive, Poetry, Soup Kitchen Stories on December 24, 2014 at 7:45 pm

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On Achieving Section 8 Housing
by Norman Clayton

Three-thirty p.m. a balmy March first
Bring in pale squared sunlight against
My east wall.

My once ailing poinsettia is thriving.
It now seems more pink than red.
It is below the sunlight
Yet it glows like a cherry salesman
In my all white room.

Part of me says
It will at the very least
In a few months turn green
Like all the other plants.

But not the best part of me.
The best part of me
Wants it to keep its cheery glow.
March, it has been 29 years
Since my first breakdown

March, march march march
The world is good.

Homeless

In Friendship, Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Prose, Soup Kitchen Stories on December 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm

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Homeless
by Ronnie Eisen

In 1977, I had entered the shelter system for approximately one month. Christmas was approaching, and I could not bear the idea that I must spend this day in the women’s shelter. I was broke and completely miserable.

I went to the phone booth and dialed the toll-free number for battered women. They told me they had room for me at Mother Theresa’s, and I could move in on Saturday afternoon. You can’t imagine how happy I was to be going away from the shelter.

I carefully packed my few belongings, leaving a few things behind for my new friends, Crystal and Mickey. I never told my counselor where I was going. I left him a note, thanking him for all his help. Then I just left, pretending to be going to the laundry.

I rode the train to Harlem with great happiness. The convent was even better than I thought it would be. We had no Christmas tree yet, but Mother put one up and let us all decorate it. We helped cook all the meals and cleaned the place. For once, there was no smoking and no violence. I really enjoyed the peace and quiet.

But then, the annoying thing happened. It was Christmas Day, and Mother told us we had to leave at eight in the morning and not come back until four in the afternoon. I had gotten sick at the party the night before, and I felt awful. I had no money at all and nowhere to go. Having never been in Manhattan on Christmas Day before, I imagined nothing would be open, I would freeze and die.

Suddenly, I remembered a story in the newspaper about Holy Apostles Church. I got a copy of the Tablet and checked the address. A Nigerian woman told me they would be serving Christmas dinner there. She too had no place to go. We made our way down from Harlem in the snow. We attended church at Holy Apostles and then went to the meal.

Everyone was nice to us, and several men gave us referrals to other soup kitchens that I have been going to ever since. I thank God for all the nice people I have met, and all the help they have given me.

My friend was able to reunite with her sister and find work in America. I’m still homeless, but I do work now and go to Holy Apostles whenever I can.

Debbie’s Story

In Keeping hope alive, Love, Soup Kitchen Stories, The worst of times on December 24, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Debbie

Back in the  late nineties, Debbie came to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen to help her through a temporary cash shortage. While starting a job as a substitute teacher at PS 33, the school across the street from Holy Apostles, she had to wait several weeks before her first paycheck could be processed through the school system. She saw the line outside the soup kitchen during her lunch break.  “I didn’t have a penny. I was really hungry and dizzy so I said ‘I’m going to go over there and eat!”

That was before her life took several tragic turns, and before the soup kitchen became a regular necessity in her daily life. In late August of 2001, Debbie was struck by an oncoming taxi, breaking her legs at the knees.

She had been living in lower Manhattan for many years, having run the NYU etching studio after completing her Masters in Environmental Arts. Debbie recalls the days when she could still afford  “those expensive “Modi” glasses” and get her hair professionally highlighted. Her art career had also taken off with one person shows and “really good reviews in the Philadelphia Enquirer”.  As a single mother of two gifted children attending local private day schools on scholarship, and a substitute teacher at P.S. 33, life had its share of challenges, but for the most part she was able to stay above  water.

Those late days of summer in 2001 changed all that. The taxi accident would cause permanent physical disabilities, and just as she was  beginning to cope with the emotional trauma of the accident on top of the acute physical pain of the injury, the twin towers were attacked on September 11th. Living in lower Manhattan, she and her son witnessed and were embedded in the horrific events of that day and the months of recovery at ground zero.

Already vulnerable because of the accident, Debbie developed severe post traumatic stress disorder while her son also dealt with the anxieties of post 9/11. At this point her daughter was attending Bard College, and Debbie was now living with medical expenses, on top of her emotional and physical disabilities, while trying to be the best mother she could be despite everything. In  a heartbreaking decision, it was determined that her son, and the chocolate Laborador Retriever she had given him for Christmas,  would be better off going back to her home town  in Minnesota to be fostered by her parents. “He ended up going to the same school I did: Sunrise Junior High. I grew up in the suburbs and my Dad was an engineer. He worked for the National Cash Register Company for forty years.”  Although assured that her son and their dog were in caring and stable environment, she now faced  her own recovery under the additional weight of grief and loneliness.

Due to her disabilities, Debbie has been unable to work but she does have an affordable living situation in an artist’s community where she can still focus on her art. “One person shows are too expensive. They’re  quite an investment!” says Debbie, but her work has made its way into various collective shows.

To stay strong and healthy in both mind and body, Debbie relies on the meals and the community at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen everyday.  She  has also attended the writers workshop, the art workshops and the meditation class offered through the soup kitchen’s support services. Today, she has a strong relationship with both of her grown children. She speaks with great pride about her daughter who has a successful writing career,  and her son who is now back in New York and a graduate of  Hunter College with a Masters in both Math and Economics.

And finally, she speaks with great reverence about Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. “It’s a 10 out of a 10,” she says. “Everyday, in all aspects.”

Dermot’s Story

In employment, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories, Uncategorized on December 12, 2014 at 8:44 pm

 

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Dermot started coming to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen during the summer, when he was actually starting a new job at a big construction project nearby. He told us his story after finishing up a hearty meal and with only a few minutes to spare before he had to report back to work.

Why would someone  just starting a lucrative job need the soup kitchen? Fortunately, it is open to anyone – no questions asked – and that means Dermot too, who only found out about the soup kitchen after he started working again.

“I’m part of the long term unemployed. Construction got hit the hardest – I’d say about 80% of us lost our jobs,” he says, “I owe so much in back rent and bills that it will be about six months in this job before I’m caught up.”

Dermot says he did have small jobs during his hard times, but nothing that could keep his bills paid. Today though, things are looking up for Dermot as he scales new heights.

“Lunch here gives me the sustenance I need to keep going in the afternoon. I’m working on the first high rise I’ve worked on since 2008. And there are 30 more in the plans to go up.”

Dermot has also appreciated the haircut vouchers that Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen provides. These savings on lunch and haircuts certainly add up, helping him to get back on track and free of debt.

 

Islets of Fantasy

In Poetry on December 11, 2014 at 9:41 pm

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There was an islet that rose, out of the ocean.

Due to rising of coral rock from the ocean bed.

There was a lot of erosion that occurred from the sea blast, wind velocity, and rain.

It took the shape of two hands, in a petition mode as a supplication honoring God.

Due to the erosion, the soil could only grow saline plants, such as coconut trees.

The bridge was built from coconut tree trunks.

The shack was built from sawn coconut trunk and tree leaves.

There was a man on the bridge, intoning that a few people live on the islet.

A rope ladder was built, to climb from the boat in the ocean to the bridge between the

islets.

It was a slight cloudy day.

-Sylvian Francis

You

In Love, Poetry, secrets & dreams, Stories on December 4, 2014 at 10:04 pm

You

You
by Rosetta Miletti North

You’re a lifelong dream recently relinquished.
The tiresome fact remains that I cannot help search the masses
that I may chance upon a countenance pleasing to my soul.

I have not found you.

In the verdure of youth,
the enticing notion of duality ignited within me the spark to unearth you.
To find the hand that protectively holds onto mine when I fear the monsters in the dark and the dark demons within myself.
To find the sweet breath that bathes my ear, whispering my name during the incremental folds into darkness or as the chill starts to evaporate by morning light.
To hear eternity echo off of the majestic massifs, retelling of our serendipitous encounter.

Yet…I have not found you.

The formation of the idea of you was lovely,
held steadfast by the hope of stirring from a dream to find you slumbering by my side.
The idea of you was divine,
something to look back upon on occasion when life has become antiquated, punctuated by the emergence of newly formed lovers holding our place in the universe.

Ricky’s Story

In Guest stories, Soup Kitchen Stories, Uncategorized, Volunteer Stories, Who, where, how? on December 2, 2014 at 9:39 pm

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Ricky was homeless when he first came to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for lunch as a guest.  “Drugs and drinking were taking a toll on me,” he says, ” I was doing that because I was homeless. I had no hope. Everything was gone. When you’re homeless you don’t care about nothing. I numbed the pain of being homeless and hurting inside.”

Through the years, Ricky has faced a lot of loss within his own family, including his own divorce during his mid twenties. Two of his nine sisters and one of his three brothers have died of HIV related physical and mental complications. Another brother is living with HIV.

“I should be dead,” Ricky says,” I was blessed not to have it because of my own high risk behaviors.”

Like many homeless people, Ricky got to know the streets of New York. He noticed the long line around Holy Apostles Church and learned about the soup kitchen by talking to other guests. As he began eating lunch here on a regular basis, Ricky  found acceptance and “a love that was shown by the staff who were walking around and talking to me. The food was good, and a healthy quality” he recalls, “I kept coming back for the food, the service and the good, smiling faces.”

Then, through the support services and counseling offered at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, Ricky received vouchers for clothing, toiletries, phone calls, and even referrals to other places for food and showers.

“I became strong. I was like a dead flower but the love, caring and concern here made me blossom and bloom. Hope started coming back.”

Because of the emotional and practical support he received at the soup kitchen, Ricky had the strength to seek out housing resources on his own through other outlets and find the substance abuse treatment services he needed to continue his road to recovery. In 2010, when his housing situation had stabilized and he was clean and sober he approached our volunteer coordinator to see what he could do to give back.

Today, not only is Ricky a volunteer at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, he has also completed  a Manhattan based  HIV peer counseling program.

“I believe my calling is to help. This is the lifestyle I came from. I have empathy. I want to be a teacher to the younger generation.”