ROCHESTER — Fabiola Sylvestre wound up in Rochester without a home or job, but in a few short months she has been able to get back on her feet, thanks to help from several agencies, including Catholic Family Center.
After the death of the father of her five girls, Sylvestre and her family moved from Massachusetts and spent about a year in New York City, living in a string of shelters. Sylvestre decided to try the Rochester area because she had a cousin who lived here.
When the family of six arrived in Rochester eight months ago, they lived at Women’s Place, a shelter run by Catholic Family Center. She received help through the Department of Social Services and through that is now working part time at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The family is now able to live on its own.
“My family was able to get a place,” said Sylvestre, 36. “It’s not the best of everything, but it’s my own.”
Catholic Family Center helped her get the clothes for her new job, gave her emergency food and is helping her with family needs for Christmas. She said her daughters, who range in age from 4 to 19, are her motivation to succeed in Rochester.
“With perseverance, you can get to where you are trying to go,” Sylvestre said.
Sylvestre recently went back to Catholic Family Center to show her new work badge to Bobbi McGarrity, senior case manager for the agency’s Community Resource Services.
McGarrity is one of the Catholic Family Center employees who helps people meet their emergency needs. Funding sources available to her include small grants from the annual Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal.
She said need remains high in the area and increases each year.
“We’ve had a 65-percent increase over the past two years in requests for food,” McGarrity said. “Definitely the economy is still a problem, and food prices are continuing to rise and basic necessities are more expensive.”
She said has seen many people struggle due to the loss of employment, rising health-care needs, and the need for safe, affordable housing. Additionally, need is projected to grow soon as cuts to food stamps (known formally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) went into place Nov. 1. The full effect of the cuts probably won’t be felt until December, when household food budgets don’t stretch as far, McGarrity said.
The cuts to food stamps, which averaged about $36 for a family of four, ended a temporary increase in benefits that had been put in place in 2009 through the federal stimulus, according to the advocacy agency the Coalition for Human Needs. Additionally, Congress has been debating cutting the SNAP appropriation as part of negotiations on the farm bill. Proposed cuts to SNAP have ranged up to an additional $40 billion over the next 10 years, which the think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said could deny benefits to more than 3 million people nationwide each year for the next 10 years.
In New York nearly 3.2 million people, or 16 percent of the state’s population, receive food stamps, and there was a $332 million cut to its food stamps appropriation Nov. 1, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Stockton Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Des Moines Bishop Richard E. Pates, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote Congress members Nov. 12 to decry cuts to food stamps, international aid and housing assistance.
“We have serious concerns about using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or other programs that serve poor and hungry people, to find savings in the budget,” the two bishops wrote. “We urge you to reject proposals that would use such potential savings to relieve a percentage of the sequestration cuts. Savings that pay for other domestic spending priorities should not come at the expense of vulnerable people in need.”
McGarrity noted that people in emergency situations often turn to Catholic Family Center for things that food stamps don’t buy: diapers, toilet paper, toothpaste or other hygiene necessities, money for prescription medications, and cash for a security deposit on a safe, affordable apartment. Christmas Appeal funding is so important to the agency, she said, because it can be used rapidly for emergency needs, unlike some of the more restricted funding available to the agency, McGarrity said.
Yet, each year the amount of Christmas Appeal funding available to Catholic Family Center has gotten smaller, she said. That’s why the appeal funds are used for one-time needs.
“We don’t want this to become a lifestyle,” McGarrity said of using the Christmas Appeal funding. “We are just here to step in if someone has an emergency.”
– – –
Editor’s Note: To contribute to the Christmas Appeal, download and print the donation form to mail a donation.