When a woman has nowhere to lay her head at night except a metal chair inside of a laundromat, figuring out how to cut through the red tape necessary to find shelter isn’t what she dreams about. If that same woman is also pregnant, consider the red tape doubled.
That’s the situation April was in recently. Just 19-years-old, April was living in Queens and had an abusive 31-year old boyfriend who was threatening her further if she would not get an abortion. Out of options, young April spent a few nights inside the rear of a neighborhood laundromat.
April’s next step was to visit “PATH” – Prevention Assistance & Temporary Housing – which is run by the Department of Homeless Services in New York. The first step in the bureaucracy of PATH is to provide a detailed account of where you lived for the past two years. April could not demonstrate two consecutive years of homelessness. For the sake of example, if a person is homeless for 11 months, and then for 1 month he or she finds a couch to sleep on somewhere, anywhere, and then is homeless again for the next 12 months – PATH concludes that this one month on the couch renders a person not sufficiently homeless and therefore ineligible for assistance. April was told by PATH to “go back” to her previous residence – giving no consideration that her prior residence was abusive and dangerous for April and for her baby.
Ironically, it was a case manager from PATH who made the call to Good Counsel to refer April to us. The PATH case manager recognized that a laundromat was no place for a person to sleep and definitely not a young woman who was 8 months pregnant. Praise be to God that sometimes common sense and charity trumps bureaucratic policy.
Sadly, we have seen this story replayed many times from people who have attempted to find help through PATH. You may be living in a rat-infested apartment, surrounded by a drug den, or caught in the web of a physical abuser, but if you have not exclusively lived out in the street for the past two, consecutive years, you’re out of luck. To add pathetic insult to injury, it usually takes PATH 10-days to investigate a person’s “eligibility” and let them know if any help is available.
April was welcomed at Good Counsel immediately and she is currently receiving the necessary care to have a safe birth.
You may say it is easy to bash government-run programs, and some who are involved in political talk radio spend most of their waking hours doing just that. My point is that when an agency consistently fails and puts lives at risk – serious reform is needed. Good Counsel receives virtually no government assistance and yet consistently takes in pregnant women PATH refuses to help.
While we will continue to encourage our local government to act more responsibly, may I also encourage you to renew your support for our homes where we never tell a mom like April to “go back” to where she came from.