photo of Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA

That Persistent Drive Towards the Goal

Drive. Rush. Goal.  Sunday’s Super Bowl was a great event, perhaps the most visible display of the human will to win. And from the New York Giants’ point of view, evidence that determination and persistence can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Source: Press

It reminded me of an article I read earlier in the day in The New York Times, “The Hidden Homeless,” and how similar these two stories are.  The Times recounted the day in the life of a homeless family in New York, Tonya Lewis and her two sons, who live in one of the city’s shelters.  By 4:45 in the morning, she is already running late. She and her children needed to get started on their day to work, school, and daycare that involved a relentless march through the public transportation system – four subways, two buses, and long walks on either end – a four-hour trek in all, each day. At 8 p.m., they return to their room and prepare for the next day.

Source: The New York Times

Their story is not unfamiliar to Catholic Charities. Ms. Lewis and her husband had jobs – low paying but enough to cover the rent on their apartment.  But he lost his job as a maintenance worker, and her hours as a home health aide were reduced due to cuts in Medicaid. In the course of a few months, the family’s income dropped from $4,400 a month to $840. They could no longer afford the rent on their $1,200 a month apartment.  A government program that provided rent subsidies was discontinued. The family split up and joined the growing and all but invisible ranks of the homeless.  The article describes the situation in New York City:

Unlike in the 1980s, when the crisis was defined by AIDS patients or men who slept on church steps, these days it has become more likely that a seemingly ordinary family, rushing about on public transportation with Elmo bags and video games, could be without a home.

Of New York’s more than 40,000 homeless people in shelters — enough to fill the stands at Citi Field — about three-quarters now belong to families like the Lewises and are cloaked in a deceptive, superficial normalcy. They do not sleep outside or on cots on armory floors. By and large, their shoes are good; some have smartphones. Many get up each morning and leave the shelter to go to work or to school. Their hardships — poverty, unemployment, a marathon commute — exist out of sight. 

Yet they have a goal – to get back on their feet – and they drive forward, every day gaining a few yards towards that elusive goal.

We’ll be gathered around the water cooler or coffee room this week reliving the game (the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat).  Could we also talk about these families?  Read the article. You’ll see that the stories are not so different after all.

What is your reaction to the NY Times article? Have you seen a shift in homelessness in your community? Are there any homeless children at your child’s school? How is the community responding?  Share your stories and examples here, or join our Facebook discussion.