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Enough to Listen [Grace Kim '10]

“I had felt helpless at the face of my own inability to help, but she was just grateful for an open and nonjudgmental ear. I reflected that sometimes it was just enough to listen to the story of another human being.”

I was a CPIC fellow, through PBHA, for a year post-graduation, working at at Montefiore Medical Center as a case manager, providing case management services for home health aides who were trained at home care agencies in the Bronx.

One client, whom I will call Lily (name has been changed to protect identity), broke down in front of me shortly after a training class in January. With tears streaming down her face, she held out an eviction notice with trembling hands. She owed her landlord over $4,000 in rent, accumulated over the course of 10 months of unemployment. A women in her late 20s, with three children, who had completed the 9th grade, she was bereft of solid social support, as she did not know the whereabouts of her father, and her mother was more concerned with her younger sister with Down’s Syndrome.

Lily had little work experience, and the training program was her sole chance for paid employment. Lily and her children were in danger of re-entering the shelter system, with its consequent rules and regulations, and perhaps subtle and overt means of humiliation of its tenants. I wrote numerous letters on Lily’s behalf, requesting financial assistance, and referred Lily to a public benefits specialist. All to no avail. The pledges for assistance did not cover the $4,000, and Lily’s landlord became impatient, locking the door one day and forcing Lily and her family to move in with her mother in a three-bedroom apartment for eight people.

I met Lily a few months after the ordeal of the eviction. Lily was hopeful, despite all that she had gone through. She spoke glowingly of her children, and especially her precocious daughter, whom she hoped to send to a charter school. She was looking into an apartment with rent that could be covered by a rental assistance program. She enjoyed her work, her role as a home health aide, and she felt that she was in a better position than she had been before January. After giving her a MetroCard for working for three months, she thanked me for listening to her story in January. I had felt helpless at the face of my own inability to help, but she was just grateful for an open and nonjudgmental ear. I reflected that sometimes it was just enough to listen to the story of another human being.

Grace Kim ’10

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