Javier’s story

July 30, 2019

When a medical crisis sent a recent immigrant into a downward spiral, he lacked the safety net to rebound to self-sufficiency. Catholic Social Services’ Guadalupe Center staff intervened to prevent his family from becoming homeless.

When Javier relocated to Columbus from Venezuela, he found stable work doing construction and settled his wife and 5-year old daughter into an apartment in a safe neighborhood. Javier had been a successful business owner in Venezuela, but even though he hadn’t reached the same financial position he had in his home country and his job did not provide him benefits, his salary more than covered his family’s basic needs, and they were content. They considered themselves blessed to have the opportunity to re-start their lives in the United States, having fled economic and political upheaval in their home country. Javier had been having recurring, unexplained headaches for about a year, and he was pleased to finally be in a stable enough place to figure out what was going on. When he went to the doctor for an investigative check-up into his headaches, Javier was not worried.

A few hours later, Javier found himself being wheeled into the Operating Room for an emergency surgery to remove the tumor the doctor had found in his brain. Still, he felt lucky that the doctor had found it and would fix it. He figured that in a few weeks he would be back to work and, if he worked some overtime for the next month, he would soon be caught up from the time he’d been off for surgery.

Little did he know that, instead of being caught up within the month, he would soon find himself falling further and further behind on his rent, find an eviction notice under his front door, and be facing the imminent threat of homelessness. How could his life spiral downhill so quickly?

Javier’s surgery caused complications, and he wasn’t able to work for six weeks, at which point he had lost his job. Javier was skilled, but didn’t speak English, and this was a huge barrier in finding the kind of work that would allow him to provide for his family. When he received his eviction notice, he could only read enough to understand that he had to be out of his home in three days—he didn’t understand why or if there was anything he could do about it. If only he had someone who would loan him enough money to get through until he found a job… but he didn’t have any family in Columbus, and he had few friends. He had been warned against quick loans and scams. Who could possibly help him?

In this moment, Javier saw the stability he had worked so hard to give his family in their new country slipping away, and he couldn’t see a way to stop it.

Javier had heard of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Center at church. He knew some of his church friends had gotten help from the Center before. He didn’t know exactly what the Center did—but he was desperate. So he walked into the Center with his eviction notice and his story.

At the Center, Javier was greeted in Spanish and felt immediately at ease. He met Alma Santos, the center coordinator—who was an immigrant herself. She listened to his journey and helped him interpret the eviction notice.

According to the notice, Javier and his family would be evicted in three days because he was behind on his rent. Alma knew this eviction was more than an immediate problem—having an eviction on his record would hinder Javier’s ability to rent for years. Alma immediately began advocating on his behalf. First, she spoke with Javier’s landlord and was able to get his eviction rescinded. Then Alma contacted our partners at The Columbus Foundation and was able to procure a Gift of Kindness (a financial emergency gift) which allowed him to get caught up on his rent and utilities.

After helping the family meet their immediate needs, Alma started working with them on rebuilding back to self-sufficiency. Alma helped Javier find a new job with benefits, provided him with food assistance from the Guadalupe Center’s pantry, enrolled him in ESL classes, and referred him to legal aid. Javier is now back on his feet.

The Guadalupe Center’s purpose is to help people like Javier. We strive to provide the safety net many immigrant Hispanic families lack, empowering them to use resources and their own skills to become self-sufficient. Our ultimate goal is that that we will not see the same families in our center experiencing the same crises and poverty a year from now. For clients like Javier, this means that, instead of being unemployed, he has a better job with benefits. Instead of being homeless with an eviction on his record, he has maintained his housing. Once again, he has the opportunity to take care of his family and rebuild his life.

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