After retiring from 32 years of public service with the Federal Government, I was bored out of my wits. My neighbor suggested that I volunteer at Catherine’s House. Living in New York City for most of my life, my view of the homeless was somewhat stereotypical. I frequently saw homeless people in subways or on the streets, often with a substance abuse problem. I heard that medical/psychological facilities were randomly discharging occupants who had no resources. I was told and believed that many of these displaced individuals would rather live on the streets than in substandard shelters. It is at Catherine’s House where my views began to change, and a greater sense of gratitude for God’s blessings became present in my life.
First I met resident Miranda, a statuesque and striking woman with sandy blond hair whose appearance reminded me of the wealthy women that lived on Fifth Avenue. Miranda was down to earth with a warm sense of humor, and enjoyed working in the gardens at Catherine’s House. She became a resident after her husband left her for another woman. Within months at Catherine’s House, she was hired by a major retailer and found permanent housing.
Then I met resident Kim. Kim was married to a prominent figure in her community; however her marriage ended in divorce. She relocated to this area with a promise of a job, but the job did not materialize. I enjoyed our brief conversations and was delighted when she found a job in her field and a home of her own again.
Resident Mary Lou was grounded spiritually. She was a tastefully dressed woman who once owned her own franchises. After her businesses failed, she believed that God was sending her a message. Mary Lou claimed that her stay at Catherine’s House motivated her to regroup and work as hard as she could to regain independence, and so she did.
Although these women moved from Catherine’s House a while ago, their impression on me is long lasting. Their spirits, as bright and beautiful as their appearance, did not fit the stereotype. It is heartwarming to witness how these women, with the help of a caring staff, are able to get back on their feet again. Volunteering at Catherine’s House is truly a blessing. Every week I realize how fortunate I am to be retired on a pension, and I’m reminded not to take God’s blessings for granted.