By Julie Rosenberg
St. George’s Society social worker, Julie Rosenberg explains how your generous contributions have helped to change the lives of our beneficiaries.
Can you imagine paying only $290 a month for rent for a two bedroom apartment? It is hard to believe. Now can you imagine being evicted from a $290 a month apartment because you simply don’t have enough money to pay even this incredibly low sum?
Well this was the case for Mr. M, a gentile 71 year old who ended up in housing court because of rental arrears.
Born in Jamaica, Mr. M came to the US as a young man but after marrying, health problems prevented him from doing a lot of physical work—which were most of the jobs available to him as new immigrant without a lot of education. But because his wife worked, he stayed home and took care of their children. Unfortunately, after many years, they divorced. Soon after, his mother became ill and he needed help in her home. He moved in with his aging mother, resumed his caretaking role and continued to care for her for almost 20 years, until her death at age 99. And because of this he never worked enough outside the home to qualify for Social Security.
I first met Mr. M in housing court; his landlord brought an eviction case against him for non-payment of his rent. With Mr. M, the City would only give him $117 a month in cash along with food stamps, clearly not enough to pay even this remarkably low rent. So he began to fall behind. First he had the gas turned off to save on household expenses. When I met him he was about to lose his electric service as well.
This is when St. George’s came on board. St. George’s took him on as a beneficiary, and temporarily paid the $290 monthly rent. Without this help, it was hopeless—he would lose the apartment and need to enter the homeless shelter system. But because of St. George’s involvement, the threat of eviction was removed and other services could then be put in place. The City agreed to pay the rental arrears as Mr. M had a future ability to pay rent with St. George’s help and after the crisis was averted, we were able to explore other benefits in which Mr. M was entitled. Turns out, he was entitled to collect Social Security based on his former wife’s work history.