Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

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Anthony’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories, Stories, The worst of times, Uncategorized on October 10, 2017 at 5:21 pm

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Soup Kitchen Guest Anthony was born in South Carolina but came to New York with his family as a child. One of seventeen children, his home life was troubled from an early age. “I came from a dysfunctional family: alcohol, drugs, prostitution,” he says. “When I got a little bit older, I took that on too. I first sold drugs when I was nine years old. Then I started cutting school.”

Anthony was eventually taken away from his parents and lived in various group homes and with different foster care families. Having no family or stable living situation, he turned to drug use to cope with his sadness, confusion and fear. By the time he was 18 he had become homeless, living on the streets of Midtown, and was addicted to drugs.

“I was bouncing back and forth between detox, using drugs, and sleeping on the streets,” he recalls. It was during this time that he first found Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, and started visiting every day to eat. Though he wasn’t yet ready to accept the help that he needed, those meals helped keep him alive until he could find the strength to make a change.

Sadly, it would take a long time before Anthony would make a full recovery. Just as he left the foster care system, and now an adult, he spiraled even further, ending up in prison for 15 years. By that point Anthony had become a father himself, but he had no contact with his children. After completing his sentence he was released with no support system in place, he quickly returned to homelessness and drug use.

His turning point came in 2012, when a little girl gave him a dollar. She said that her mother had told her to give it to him because he was “a bum.”

“I had enough money to buy drugs that night, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it,” he remembers. He had always refused help from homeless outreach workers, preferring to stay on the street and continue to use drugs, but that night, when their van pulled up and they offered to take him to shelter, he got in.

“It was 6 degrees below zero when they picked me up,” he says. “I had no shoes. I hadn’t showered in five months. I was embarrassed.” When he got to the shelter he was greeted at the front door and offered something to eat. He told them all he wanted was to take a shower.

“I stayed in that shower for over an hour,” he remembers. “When I came out, I looked like a raisin.”

That long, hot shower was Anthony’s first step toward accepting help and turning his life around. He went through detox and stayed clean this time, then moved on to get his own apartment in a supportive housing unit, which he shares with his two dogs that once lived with him on the streets. Now he is even reunited with his children, after many years with no contact.

“It took a long time to build up their trust because they all thought I would go back to using drugs,” he says. “It started with just conversations here and there. Now they’re always coming over to my apartment.”

Today, the soup kitchen is a place where Anthony can find a meal, but it’s also more than that. “God knows I’m grateful,” he says.  “I come here to stay grateful.” After years of homelessness and time spent in prison, the soup kitchen is a reminder of how far he’s come, and that there is some stability in the world, a place that didn’t give up him, where he can find community and kindness.

“I have people depending on me now. My kids trust me. I trust me, and that’s the most important thing.”

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Markus’s Story

In Guest stories, Soup Kitchen Stories, Stories, Uncategorized on July 10, 2017 at 5:48 pm

Markus soup kitchen storiesAspiring substance abuse counselor Markus first came to the soup kitchen a year ago after moving to New York from Rhode Island. He had just been accepted into an NYC program that provides housing assistance and other government benefits to people living with HIV and AIDS. But with no financial safety net to fall back on, and limited support through the program, Markus soon realized he was not able to afford to buy food and was struggling to provide for his needs.

“I had no food or health care,” he says. “I was emancipated from my family and had no social network to support me.”

One day while walking down 9th Avenue he saw a line of people stretching down the sidewalk in front of the soup kitchen and decided to go inside.

For Markus, the soup kitchen has provided more than just a daily meal. As a full time-student, the haircut and clothing vouchers help him look nice and well-groomed for class, and he enjoys the company of the “fabulous staff” and volunteers. A recovering addict, it has also provided a positive environment that motivates him to stay clean.

“The soup kitchen helped me when no one else could help me,” Markus says. “It has shown me true compassion.”

Today, Markus, who just turned 30, is optimistic about his future. He has his own small apartment in the Bronx and is only three months away from finishing his certification to become a Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor.

“A lot of my family has substance abuse issues,” says Markus, “and drug use is how I became HIV positive. I want to help others like myself.” He also hopes to start volunteering at the soup kitchen soon.

“I owe a lot to this place,” he says. “That’s why I keep coming back. This place has given me hope.”

Maurice’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories on June 6, 2017 at 1:25 pm

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Maurice was homeless and living with HIV when he first came to the soup kitchen back in 2007. He learned about it from a friend at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a nearby HIV/AIDS prevention and advocacy organization. Maurice, who just turned 52, says the soup kitchen played a role in helping him get his health under control.

“It gave me structure during the daytime, and a place to have nutritious meals. Having HIV requires good nutrition,” he says. His HIV has now been undetectable for seven years.

Thanks to our social services counselors, who helped him acquire a City ID Card and referrals for other services, Maurice is now no longer homeless and lives in an apartment, funded by the HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA).

“I’ve always been very involved in the community,” says Maurice, who currently serves on the HIV Planning Council, a coalition of people living with HIV/AIDS, caregivers, government representatives, and other community members.

For Maurice, the community aspect of the soup kitchen is just as important as the healthy meals he gets here.  “I like it because I’m really social. I’m extroverted. I talk to all the people at the tables, tell them to enjoy their meals,” he says. “The volunteers are very hospitable, too. It’s like a giant utopian restaurant!”

Today, with the help of the soup kitchen, Maurice has reached a place of greater health and stability, and he believes everyone has the ability to overcome difficult circumstances.

“Being homeless is a form of trauma,” he says. “But I believe everybody has resilience.”

 

Barbara’s Story

In Friendship, Guest stories on March 4, 2016 at 5:39 pm

SK Stories 2016-Barbara

At 72 years of age, Barbara’s limited retirement income comes from two sources:  social security and food stamps. She rents a small room from a  friend of hers but, she says, “I don’t really have kitchen access so I come here where I know I can have a full, real meal.”

“I worked all my life until I retired a few years ago,” she says. But with minimum wage jobs in retail and office reception, Barbara was never able to put enough away for retirement, living paycheck to paycheck in her home in Queens.

With no immediate family in the area for support, the sit down meals at the soup kitchen give Barbara a lot more than physical nutrition. “It’s like eating at the family table, here,” she says. For Barbara, the soup kitchen family gives her a joyful sense of kinship, and she enjoys the friendship of other regular guests who find nourishment for the body and the soul at our dining tables.

Diana’s Story

In Guest stories, Uncategorized on February 16, 2016 at 10:42 pm

SK Stories 2016 -Diana Taylor

Diana’s life is soaring now, but she stopped in recently to  express her gratitude for the part the soup kitchen played in getting her career and her life off the ground.

A talented singer, actor, writer and model Diana Taylor was moving up in her career when a fire destroyed all her possessions and apartment six years ago.  Forced to find emergency, temporary shelter at the cheapest hotel she could find, she quickly realized that after losing all her belongings, including her identification cards, she was on a collision course with homelessness and bankruptcy.

“Someone at the hotel told me I could get a meal here,” she remembers.

For a year and a half, while Diana rebuilt her financial and emotional life from the trauma of the fire, she gained strength from the meals at the soup kitchen, and regained her equilibrium with the help of our social services team.

“While I hustled back to a balance, the soup kitchen was there for me with a wealth of resources,” she says, remembering how much the soup kitchen’s clothing pantry helped her rebuild a wardrobe, and how she found the practical tools she needed to rebuild her life.

“I’ll tell you,  it was that little I.D. that helped me the most.” she says, referring to the photo I.D. program run through our social services program. “From there I could get a new social security card, start over and great things began to happen!”

Since then, Diana’s life has taken off again, and now her home base is  in Miami, Florida where she continues her life on stage and as a field reporter for a publication called “Soul Be Swag.”

Back in New York, she  wanted to share with us her good news, “I got an audition for The Voice on February 2oth” she says excitedly. “So I’m up here working with a vocal coach and getting ready for that.”

As she looks around the soup kitchen, she remembers when times were harder: “It was a blessing…I was never judged,” she remembers,”After I  lost everything in the fire, the soup kitchen helped me get back to balance with dignity and respect.”

 

 

 

 

Travis’s Story

In employment, Food, Guest stories, Soup Kitchen Stories, Volunteer Stories on December 29, 2015 at 7:26 pm

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Recently unemployed and homeless, Travis moved to New York to look for new opportunities. He’s come a long way since living on a reservation with his former wife in Arizona, before their divorce forced him back east where he lived  with his father in Tennessee for many years.

“I learned on the reservation how important it is to take care of others, especially your elders,” Travis recalls.

Now at age 45, Travis has a wealth of work history in auto mechanics, welding, forklift operation, cab driving and bartending. But at about the same time that he lost his job as a forklift operator in a warehouse last year, his father decided to retire in Illinois, moving to a rural area with few job possibilities for Travis.  When looking at his options, his work history and his dream of studying culinary arts,  it seemed to Travis that he would have a better chance of making a living and pursuing his goals in New York than anywhere else.

Without a job to start off with however, Travis quickly ran out of money and found himself homeless and hungry. He found a local shelter where he can sleep, and it was there that his roommate told him he could find a hot meal at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

But Travis didn’t want to just come here for a meal. “I want to earn my keep,” he says, pointing at the pounds of Plantains in front of him. Several mornings a week now, Travis is one of the first volunteers to arrive, and he gets right to work chopping vegetables and fruit in the kitchen, preparing food that will be served to about a thousand guests between 10:30 and 12:30. “This gives me the chance to learn a little bit about the culinary trade, and be able to eat.”  After all the guests have had their meal, Travis joins the other volunteers for lunch, a meal that gives him the strength to continue his job search and pursue his dreams.

“I like to serve,” Travis says. “It’s what I do.”

Charlese’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories, The worst of times, Uncategorized on December 7, 2015 at 2:11 pm

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Homelessness can happen to anyone. Just ask 64 year old Charlese, who lived in the same Upper West Side apartment for almost 40 years, since before her marriage. Her husband owned a beauty salon which Charlese become the manager of, a position she held for 24 years. But when their marriage broke down, Charlese lost her job as well.

“Because I was his wife, I wasn’t able to get any unemployment benefits,” Charlese explains. “He moved out and I wasn’t able to manage the rent alone.

Just as Charlese was forced to tap into her life savings, a new landlord increased her rent dramatically. Her only living family was her elderly father, too frail to support her. Without any income, Charlese was evicted in August, 2013 after she had depleted all her life savings.  Then next thing she knew, she found herself homeless, afraid and alone, sleeping in the Amtrak waiting room at Penn Station, or riding the subway. Without anyone else to turn to, she turned to the soup kitchen. She smiles as she recalls her first meal here.

“I remember the first day I came here.  I felt so peaceful, I felt at home.”

Charlese has spent many days here, even during her father’s illness, when she cared for him despite her own challenges. She’s come here to grieve his recent passing and she lights up when she talks about him.”He was a veteran and a boxer – he taught me how to fight, in every sense of the word.”

Fighting is what Charlese is doing—to stay sane … to stay safe … and to get her life back. This spring she shared her story of homelessness and the hope she found at the soup kitchen at the annual spring fundraiser, From Farm to Tray. “I’m so grateful to everyone, especially the social services staff members who have given me hope at times when I literally felt like I couldn’t go on.”

Today, Charlese has secured a part time job at a call center and lives frugally with a friend to whom she pays rent. While she struggles to  to cover all of her expenses on low wages, she’s determined to never have to rely on a shelter. She says simply, “The food here and the community here has helped me preserve my dignity and spirit.”

 

 

Londy’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories on August 27, 2015 at 3:25 pm

 

 

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When thirty two year old Londy and her twelve year old daughter first came to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen two years ago, they were not only hungry for a meal, they were also fleeing a dangerous domestic violence situation. For Londy, the prospect of homelessness was safer than  the constant threat of physical abuse.

And with no family in the area for support, Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen soon became a place she and her daughter could find the routine of regular meals, a safe community and, even, tradition.  “I love the little things they do here, especially on the holidays,” she said, “It really means a lot – to be able to have a place to celebrate whatever holiday is going on. ”

It’s taken courage for  Londy to trust  people again, after living under chronic fear for so long. She’s been enduring unpredictable and temporary living arrangements while seeking out housing that’s truly safe and permanent. “I live in a shelter so the soup kitchen is really comforting,”  she says, adding how much she found comfort by talking with one of the clergy members one day, and how the social services program has helped her navigate resources to help her cope.

“I was doing really bad,” Londy recalls. “And the people  helped me with clothing, and resources like shelter referrals, so I could find ways to survive.”

While she tells her story, Londy  pauses to say hello to another guest and then remarks, “Everyone – their whole demeanor, is really nice here. It helps.”

Today, Londy’s hopeful that her section 8 housing application will be approved before the winter sets in. While she must contend with the stress of waiting for that outcome, she’s gained enough trust in others again to meet with  both the chiropractor and  energy healer who volunteer their time at the soup kitchen  every week.

“I’ve got really bad back problems from not sleeping well, and the chiropractor really helps,” she says. “And I feel so light after meeting with the energy healer, it was amazing!”

 

 

 

Jacques

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive on August 11, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Jacques

Recently,  Jacques dropped in for a visit on his day off to let our social services team know  how much his life has really turned around since he first came to the soup kitchen. When the fifty two year old first came here about three years ago, he had lost his job and his home.  He was also grieving the loss of his mother, who he had lived with and helped care for during her illness before she passed away.

“When she passed —” he recalls. “Everything just fell apart. I was in a shelter. I never thought I’d end up there.”

Thinking about his days in the shelter Jacques says, “I was ashamed, but the soup kitchen helped me remember who I am  and that anyone can end up where I was.”

“I had no money but the soup kitchen helped me get through the day,” Jacques recalls, thinking about that tough winter, “There are very nice people here and it was really a source of energy, the meals and their kindness. They issued me a MetroCard, gloves, scarves and hats.”

Now, Jacques  is working again in security, “I’ve got a room of my own in a two story building,” he says.  “I got my own place thanks to the help here which helped me with referrals for housing.”

Recently, Jacques even got a promotion at his new job. He gives credit to the social services team and the volunteers here who inspired him to have a new positive, outlook on life one that he knows his mother would be proud of, “Just by being kind and being helpful, they helped me get to where I am now.”

Freedom of Expression

In Guest stories, Prose, Uncategorized on May 21, 2015 at 11:50 am

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Since I’m always on my way, going someplace, a better question is “Where are you coming from?’

T.S. Eliot started by by saying, “In my end is my beginning.” There is much work that I still have to do before I accept my end. I would work to make myself a useful citizen of this country. I have much to offer, and much of what I have to offer is in what I have to say.

It is not that I am full of myself. Yet I believe that many of the problems that America is facing are not unlike the personal problems I have. America might do well to lend me her ear to see how I have succeeded where I find her to be faltering.

It is not as though what I have to say has already been said by others. I am different from the people around me. Social workers try to deal with me by looking up the answer in the back of the book. They do not understand that their book is the wrong book. The right book has not yet been written.

Yes, I was born in New York City, on December 17,1942. It was ten days after Enrico Fermi’s achievement of controlled fission. It was Beethoven’s birthday. It was the middle of the World War. Music, science, and history are in my blood. Their fundamental precepts are the context in which I stand in this instant of time’s momentum. they are the horizon that surrounds me in everything I hope to do.

On the seashore I see what I can reach for: a land of acceptance and welcome. A journey that began when my parents left Europe is finding its place in America, just as America is finding her place in the world. My role is to add significance to what she does. We hear overtones, for music is international language.

In the end, we two have much left to say.

Walter Schubert