The Faces of Hunger
All around us...
In Doña Ana County, hunger wears many faces. We see it in the worried look of a senior whose Social Security check no longer covers his needs, and in the faces of a young single mom who's just lost her job, a recently disabled farmworker, a handicapped dad, a woman living in her car...
In her seventies and with health issues, Socorro takes care of four grandchildren. Their mother, divorced and working at a minimum-wage job, helps as much as she can. But her salary can no longer cover the rent, clothe the kids, and feed six people. So, once a month, Socorro turns to Casa de Peregrinos for help. Although we've been here for her so far, like other helping agencies of the area—and Socorro herself—we're experiencing financial challenges in these difficult times.
Jerry is a homeless vet. That he finds himself on the streets presents sad confirmation of government research showing veterans to be roughly 50 percent more likely than most to fall into homelessness.
In some areas, one in three to five homeless people are veterans (some of them women). Like many of the others, Jerry gets by with a little help from his friends. For example, he and two buddies take turns guarding their meager possessions while each of them visits Casa or El Caldito, the soup kitchen.
Because the loss of a coat, a pack, or a bedroll at certain times of the year can become life-threatening, a trustworthy buddy provides a little security in what for Jerry and other homeless people can be a very insecure world.
Another source of security is the food he receives at Casa and can take back to camp. When available, we provide hygiene kits, as well, but what we can give Jerry varies according to our finances at the time. Whatever that may be, Jerry is grateful—once saying to a volunteer, "I'm sure glad you guys have got my back."
For the working poor, life can be a struggle. Ana Maria knows this all too well as a mother of five children ranging in age from 5 to 15 years. Working at minimum wage, she's experienced frequent cuts in her hours, which have caused her take-home to drop accordingly.
Diabetes has disabled Ana Maria's husband of 28 years, so Ana Maria tries to find creative ways to feed and clothe her family. Still, the bills continue to mount.
But there's good news as well. The family is on a list for subsidized housing at some future date. And her eldest daughter is an honor student at school, which is a great joy to Ana Maria, who wants her children to have an easier life than her own. Her advice to other working poor: "Don't give up, and don't be embarrassed to ask for help if you need it." Casa stands ready to provide some of that help.
A formerly homeless woman in her late-middle years, Geneva might be considered one of Casa's success stories.
For many months, she visited Casa for help on Friday mornings. Eventually Geneva came to the notice of a Casa volunteer, who took an interest in her and tried to give her food suited to homeless life.
One day, the volunteer ("Sara") encountered Geneva as she was about to drive away. Rolling down her window, Geneva told Sara that at the end of the next week she'd be eligible for a "widow's pension" and would thus be moving from her tent to an apartment...after roughly two years out in the elements.
Expressing her thanks to both Sara and Casa, Geneva then drove away. As we haven't seen her since, we suspect life got better for Geneva. But we were there when she needed us, just as we are for countless others with stories of their own.