Dear Friends of Joseph House:
Home is where our story begins.
If this is true for us then it was true for Jesus when He walked the earth, born into the family of Mary and Joseph. He lived in a home created by His parents in the town of Nazareth. The house itself was likely humble in appearance, square in form and constructed of stone and clay. The roof may have served as an open-air terrace. An oven was probably outside and maybe a fig tree.
It’s interesting to note that Jewish families often kept a wooden receptacle attached to the wall by the door. Inside were strips of parchment on which were written passages from Scripture. Upon entering or leaving the house, the box was reverently touched, an indication of how a family’s dwelling place is sacred ground.
For Jesus, His home in Nazareth was more than simply a place to eat and sleep. It was a place to grow and develop. A place to feel cared for, protected, and loved. Day by day, in moments shared with Mary and Joseph, Jesus became the man we know in the Gospels.
Everyone needs a place to call home. Its importance to family life, and hence society, cannot be overstated. That’s what makes today’s lack of affordable housing so troubling. The problems of many poor families are tied directly to this issue. Forget about getting ahead — high rents, taking 50 to 80% of income, make it impossible for the poor to keep from falling behind.
People come to the Joseph House Crisis Center every week with eviction notices. According to Evicted, a book by Matthew Desmond, in the 1930s the New York Times reported on evictions as newsworthy events. Now it’s a different story: evictions occur every day in communities across the country. Desmond goes on to say:
Eviction’s fallout is severe. Losing a home sends families to shelters, abandoned houses, and the street. It invites depression and illness, compels families to move into degrading housing in dangerous neighborhoods, uproots communities, and harms children. Eviction reveals people’s vulnerability and desperation, as well as their ingenuity and guts.
We see this in our work at the Joseph House, and that is why helping families hold onto their housing is a major part of our mission. “Eviction’s fallout is severe.” Imagine all of your belongings out on the street, all of your food going to waste on the sidewalk. What would you tell your children? How would you care for them? Where do you go? What do you do? These are real questions people face.
Linda was one such person desperate to avoid losing her home. She is the mother of five school-age children. For years she worked full-time to provide a stable, supportive life for them. That changed last summer when a serious car accident injured her back. Linda is still in pain and hasn’t been able to return to work.
Linda and her children live in a subdivided house on a country lane, across from a chicken farm. She has exhausted her savings in paying the rent. When an eviction notice was posted on her door, Linda needed to reach out for help. The Joseph House was there for her, and with a $200 payment to her landlord we bought Linda some time. Her application for disability benefits is under review. Getting approved is her family’s best hope for survival, at least for the time being.
Karly, 38, is also struggling to care for her family. She is a divorced mother of three children, two boys and a girl. Karly used to work, but an arthritic condition that makes her feel pain all over her body put an end to her employment. Her two sons are disabled and their combined Social Security of $1,029 monthly provides the family’s income. The rent takes 73% of that.
One day Karly realized the kitchen and bathroom sinks plus the toilet were clogged and not draining. Leaks were sprouting from the old pipes. The landlord called a plumber, who after removing the toilet extracted a child’s toy from the drain pipe. The landlord said the repairs were due to Karly’s negligence and she needed to pay the bill of $399. Otherwise, her lease would not be renewed. Since Karly did not have the money, she appealed to the Joseph House for help. We looked over her budget with her and determined that a $200 contribution would see her through this crisis. Becoming homeless would have greatly jeopardized this family’s health.
When Angelica came to see us she had no fixed address. She and her two young daughters had used up their time at a homeless shelter. Angelica’s goal was to work with children with special needs — she was waiting for her background check to be completed. We paid for several nights in a motel as well as gas for her car.
Cassidy was anxious to leave the disreputable motel where she was living with her six children. She had seen too many rats. Previously, Cassidy and her kids were homeless, living out of her car. When Cassidy found a housekeeping job, she moved everyone into the motel. But now it was time to leave.
Unfortunately, Cassidy’s job pays very little: only $450 in the first month, although her boss has promised her more hours in the near future. Nevertheless, at the moment she had practically no options. Cassidy asked for help at the Joseph House, and we paid for a better motel for her and her family. We also gave her gas for her car and bags of groceries. Shortly thereafter, Cassidy found a suitable apartment to rent. We contributed $200 toward the security deposit so she and her children could make the move into more stable housing.
The Joseph House, of course, will help with any need as long as it can be demonstrated. Rodney, 81, is disabled and cannot walk. His 31-year-old son lives with him, but he has psychiatric problems and cannot function socially. He can do simple tasks if Rodney gives him clear-cut directions. This father and son were living without heat after they ran out of propane. We paid $200 to get the tank refilled.
Many times we help people in their immediate need, and yet their lives are still so precarious. This reminds us that their road is long and hard. Thank you for all the ways you show your love for the poor. We share with you glimpses into their lives, and we are grateful you feel close enough to care about their well-being. You make our work possible.
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We are approaching Holy Week, the unsurpassed teacher on the meaning of love, where actions are as eloquent as words. Let us take it all to heart and put into practice what we can learn.
You are especially close to us in prayer. May Easter shine brightly for you, filling you with the hope and promise of Christ!
Your Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary
It is quite true that the life of Saint Joseph and of his Holy Family, as regards to the exterior, was an ordinary, modest, unassuming life, and, we may say, a life of monotonous poverty.
But what treasures of genuine peace and true joy were hidden in its interior! In this realm no one wished to be in command or give orders, but all desired from a motive of humble love rather to obey and serve one another. And where love reigns supreme, there are peace and joy, but only there.
Fr. Maurice Meschler, SJ
The Truth About Saint Joseph