Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Archive for the ‘The worst of times’ Category

Lost Soul

In fiction, Keeping hope alive, Love, The worst of times on May 13, 2016 at 4:04 pm

don't jump i love you

It’s springtime in the city and the sun is about to rise up – and you see the delivery man making his rounds.

A police officer is walking his beat – on Fifth Ave and 57th Street – when he looks up and sees a man on the edge of a tall building, he realizes this man is going to jump. He calls on his walkie-talkie before going to the building where the man is. He rushes to the building, and asks the porter, “Where is the elevator?” He figures he is on the 30th floor.  When he gets there – all the doors are locked – it is only 8 am in the morning.

Just when he turns around – the elevator door opens and a young lady comes out. He asks her if she has the keys to the office leading to the 5th Ave window – where the man is – she says,  “Yes, is there anything wrong?” The police officer says – “There is a man on the edge of the window.” The lady gets upset. He puts his hand around her and says – “Just relax, please.” As he enters the office – and sees one of the windows open – he looks out, and sees the young man on the edge of the window, crying by himself. The young man sees the police officer. “Stay away from me or I’ll jump,” says the young man – the police officer asks the young man if he wants to talk about his troubles – “What’s your name son?” “ What difference does it make?” says the young man. “I have a 19 year old son like you – I care,” says the police officer. The police officer mostly listens as the young man describes his very personal struggle with his mental illness. “My name is Kelly – and if you come in I promise you I will help you,” says the police officer. “You’re just trying to fool me,” says the young man on the edge of the window.

“How can I trust a police officer?” says the young man.  “Tell you what,” says the police officer –“I take off my uniform and you and I can talk inside.” The room is full of police officers, “how can I trust them?” — says the young man. “Listen, I’ll send them away, and it will be just you and me,” says the police officer. Police Officer Kelly finds himself with a young man threatening to jump from a window, and realizes by talking to the young man it gives him a sense of hope and encouragement to come in.

Kelly the police officer tells his captain to give him 10 or 20 minutes – Kelly steps outside on the edge of the window. “How are doing son?” says Kelly the police officer. “I just don’t know,” says the young man on the edge of the window, his eyes wet with tears. “Listen son – sometimes life can get messy, you can be down today, but then you come back up again, son.” As the young man listens to Kelly, the police officer, he’s able to get a good grip on the young man and get him inside the building.

The young man starts crying and sheds tears. “It’s ok to cry, son. And I promise I will help you,” says Kelly. He gives him a big hug.

-Charles Borges

 

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.”

 

 

Do What I Say

In Poetry, The worst of times on October 23, 2015 at 1:57 pm

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-Do what I say

But you don’t make sense

-Don’t think about it, just do it

Sorry I don’t work that way

-Just follow all 3 of us

You’re not saying the same thing

-Listen and do or else

Who do I listen to-you’re saying all different things?

-You didn’t listen-now leave

Why?

-You didn’t follow instructions, now get out

You’re not making sense-which instructions to follow?

-And you’re leaving “voluntarily”, or I call the cops

Are you on crack?

-You can’t appeal this, get out

Your supervisor said I was supposed to get an appeal

-Don’t pay attention to that bitch, get out

You’re making me homeless

-I don’t give a fuck-BTW, you can’t stay in our shelter

Where am I supposed to go?

-I don’t give a fuck-you’re free to do what you want

I’d like to stay in the place I’ve been living in

-Get out

-Thomas Clarke

 

Judith’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, The worst of times, Who, where, how? on February 26, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Guest_Judith

Judith, a 47-year-old New Yorker, has been a guest at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen for over five years.

Before falling on hard times, Judith worked for the Parks Department and before then as a nurse’s aide.  But in 2010, when she and her husband both lost their jobs, they were no longer able to keep up with the rent, and evicted from their apartment.  Judith’s husband spiraled into a deep depression which led to a crack cocaine addiction. Eventually, he left Judith on her own.

Homeless and alone, Judith turned to the shelter system for help. But finding her meager possessions lost or stolen at the end of each day —  even when she had locked them up — became too much and she felt that sleeping at the airport was safer. By using a rolling suitcase that makes her look like any other traveler, Judith has been able to make JFK her home for the past three years.

Judith is grateful for the two-to-three days each week when she is able to get to the soup kitchen, where she relies on a meal that’s not only hot and appetizing, but healthy and well-balanced.  “It’s hard to find meals that include fruits and vegetables,” she says — a sentiment echoed by many of the women and men we serve.  The day she spoke to us, Judith and all of our guests enjoyed pasta with meat sauce, mixed vegetables, salad, apples, milk and juice.

Judith also appreciates the compassion and kindness of staff and volunteers alike.  “Everyone is so good here.  They treat you like they care.  They go out of their way to help.

Recently, that help has included a voucher for the warm winter coat Judith wears on these bitterly cold days.  Help has also come in the form of her participation in the Writers’ Workshop where she has been able to access her own creativity for the first time since childhood and to find a way to break out of isolation by connecting with others.

Along with all the help and support that she gets from the soup kitchen, Judith loves the music and the musicians who share their talent and time.  The Thursday we spoke to Judith, Karen Taborn was at the grand piano.  As she played Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing” for a few moments on a cold February day — and thanks to our donors and volunteers — the soup kitchen was able to ease the worries and burdens of our all guests, including Judith.

Edward’s Story

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, The worst of times, Uncategorized on February 19, 2015 at 7:41 pm

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“My problem’s unemployment,” says Edward, who’s been coming to the soup kitchen for the past three years.  “I don’t have a drug problem or a disability, it’s just really hard to find a job.”

Edward, who says he’s close to turning 50, goes to job fairs regularly where he “sees the same people [applying for jobs] over and over again. It’s disheartening.”

Having grown up in Harlem, Edward spent several years in Mexico after spending some time with his extended family in San Diego.  It was in Tijuana where he bought a small restaurant. Thinking he would follow in his father’s footsteps as a chef, he was thrilled with the idea that he could afford this investment after overhearing the seller pitch the restaurant to another potential buyer. “It was only $279.00 a month, and that other person couldn’t afford it.” Edward seized on what he thought was an opportunity of a lifetime.

But things didn’t go so smoothly for Edward once his business was up and running.  After failing to complete the local business permit processes he ended up getting a visit from the “Federales”, the Mexican equivalent of the FBI.  Without adequate legal counsel, Edward  found himself in jail  –  followed by deportation back  to the U.S.A. He had lost everything.

Edward made his way back to New York where he knew he would be facing homelessness and unemployment. During those first few months of transition, he noticed the line outside of Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. He got to talking with the people waiting in line and found out that not only did the soup kitchen provide a meal, it offered its guests necessities  like clothes and razors.

Edward has spent most of the last three years balancing his time between looking for regular, full time employment and getting  temporary, part time jobs.  He says, “You know, I could get a job today that would pay a lot of money but, you know that would involve crime. I’m almost 50 years old! It’s not the time to go start getting into the prison system.”

He muses about the people he’s known who’ve made money illegally through drugs or prostitution, spending their lives  in and out of jail.  He then makes an interesting point, “You can have dreams and ideals and high ethical standards for yourself and you don’t think you’ll ever do stuff like that. Lots of people with a lot of money don’t think they’d ever do that kind of stuff. But when your stomach is kicking your back out, that’s not so easy.”

Today, Edward is living in a small place in Brooklyn. He comes into Manhattan to  continue  his search for steady, full time employment and to stop by the soup kitchen so his own stomach doesn’t kick his back out.

“I remember being a kid and seeing the lines outside soup kitchens and thinking that everyone in there was lazy. But a lot of days, just having a meal, or getting a razor, stops me from making the wrong decisions. When you have nothing, a hot meal is a blessing.”  Coming from a former restaurateur, that means something!

 

Edward M’s Story

In how?, Keeping hope alive, Soup Kitchen Stories, The worst of times, where, Who on January 12, 2015 at 8:22 pm

edward-meares

Edward is a freelance commercial artist with an ample portfolio of comic book illustrations, some which he would like to use to develop a new video game. But, Edward’s been coming to the soup kitchen regularly this summer, as a second another round of economic troubles in the last fifteen years  has got him looking up to see bottom once again.

Edward developed a successful career when he first came to New York in 1975 as an aspiring freelance commercial artist. This came to an end 1999 when his wife was diagnosed with liver disease and he had to spend more and more time as her caretaker. By June of 2000, things had hit a crisis point with her health and for the next two months he wasn’t able to accept any work as he sat with her though her last days until she passed away in August of that year. Within a couple of weeks, while still dealing with the grief from that loss, he found himself out on the streets, looking for shelter. His wife had been the last tenant paying rent controlled prices in their apartment building. She had lived there before they got married, and it was her name on the lease. “I could have been put on an inheritance list but I didn’t know about it” Edward says.  With the primary tenant deceased, the landlord raised the rent and Edward found himself on the streets. That was his first time needing a hot meal and found one on a regular basis at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen.

Edward’s spirit prevailed and by 2005 he was once again working, earning money and back on his feet financially. He had also fallen in love with another creative spirit, a massage therapist. The two of them were married and enjoyed the lucrative income of two successful professionals.

“But we got sucked right into the housing bubble,” he says, “she wanted to live near her family so we found a place in Connecticut, near a MetroNorth station, where I could still come into the city to work.”  Things were only looking up when the housing crash hit.

“They had told us they could ‘make it work’ when we signed the mortgage papers.” he says, “what that meant was a floating interest rate. I just signed the papers but didn’t really understand. Our rate went from 18% to 58% in a couple of months and we were suddenly hundreds of dollars behind.” The next thing he knew, he was bankrupt with a broken relationship, and actually in prison for several months because of missed payments.

With his marriage broken, assets depleted, and now a prison record, Edward decided to come back to New York to work on his art career again, which requires new skills in digital graphic arts. Today,  he is in a men’s homeless shelter and is once again coming to the Soup Kitchen for sustainance.

An old friend of his volunteers at the soup kitchen as a counselor and, on top of giving Edward some much-needed company, the two of them share a spiritual connection with Buddhist chants.

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.”

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.”

September 11, 2001

In Friendship, Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Prose, The worst of times on August 11, 2014 at 3:14 pm

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Some day I’ll write of seeing thousands of bodies going up in pillars of white smoke, how the smell of death went on for weeks.

I want to write a former sister-in-law in England and say, “For a moment, I had a glimmer of what you lived through in the London Blitz.” But I couldn’t write that.

I sent my former husband a postcard of the Twin Towers and said, “Where you worked and the business life you once knew is no more. ” He wrote back, “I’m just glad you’re alive.”

Nine-eleven is like the day Kennedy was shot. You remember where you were, but you put the pain away.

-Carol West

May 8, 2002

Willie and Trace

In Guest stories, Keeping hope alive, Love, Soup Kitchen Stories, The worst of times on July 18, 2014 at 5:34 pm

T&W

 

Willie and Trace got married this past April. In the two years they’ve known each other, they’ve faced challenges both as individuals and as a couple and the two are still working hard to stay strong. “Trace put me on track,” Willie says. “She said ‘stay straight or hit the door.’ ” Shortly after they met, Trace started accompanying him to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, which had been a source of Willie’s strength for many years.

Originally from L.A., Willie was kicked out of home by his mother at only seventeen. After that he left California, traveling “from city to city” on a quest to find his father – a man he hardly knew. It was here, in New York, that Willie finally tracked him down, living on the Upper East Side. Unfortunately for Willie, the reunion he had dreamed of didn’t offer all he hoped it would. With nowhere left to turn, Willie found himself homeless and on the streets.

For Willie life on the streets was tough and he turned to drugs and alcohol to numb his pain. Sleeping at nights behind the Holy Apostles Church he would often see the line extend around the block. After a while he decided to join them, and he found the soup kitchen could offer him a lot more than a hot meal.

“You know,” he says,” sometimes I needed to cry, but I couldn’t cry outside. I used to sit right next to the piano player and I could cry there. You see other people come in here and they can cry too, because they feel more comfortable crying inside. Sometimes I listened to the piano player and just hear the peacefulness. I needed that. You can see it in other people’s faces too, sometimes when he plays. They’ll have their spoon right up to their face, and they’ll stop and just watch and listen to his playing. Sometimes the whole place will quiet down and just listen for a few moments.”

After a while Willie built up enough trust to speak to one of our counselors who secured a referral to an inpatient treatment program. Despite his best efforts, addiction still had a strong hold on Willie and it took him several years before he would stay more than one or two nights. He finally decided to “get serious”, and stayed for thirty six months in a program that helped him develop skills for the outside world, include work skills. He found his favorite jobs were in the kitchen.

Today, Willie’s life is getting back on track. As well as being married to Trace, he has secured a job he is proud of, working for a catering company, delivering pastries. Although he is earning for the first time in a long time, it is still tough for Willie to make ends meet. Coming here for lunch as well as additional services like haircut vouchers helps Willie stretch his budget.

Like Willie, for Trace the soup kitchen has become a place she can rely on, not only for a meal but for the support she finds here. “It’s been good for us,” she says. “When we didn’t have any place to go, we could come here where we had good food and could warm up for a few minutes. You come in here and you know that God is really here. God is in every one here. There are strong people around us.”

Although the couple had their own rental apartment for a while, due to dangerous and violent circumstances in their building, they were forced to leave. Once again, the support they found here was key to navigating this next phase of their journey together.

“This place has a lot of good services,” Trace remarks. “We went to support groups here and learned a lot [about] different topics – finding a place to live, dealing with shelters – we got other people’s advice and we helped other people too.”

Today, the couple is living together in a shelter. They are grateful they can be together but are hopeful for the future when they can find a more permanent home. Trace is looking forward to the writers’ workshop recommencing in the fall when she can finish her novel. For Willie, being able to rely on the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen throughout all these changes has offered him a consistency which he has always sought. Pointing over to the line of volunteers serving lunch, he smiles. “Jackie’s been here since I’ve been coming here. She just gets younger and younger and stronger and stronger. It makes me want to stay on track.”