The Little Blue Door

Paterson U.S. Navy veteran Jennifer Delgado hopes to one day write a book about her life and title it “The Little Blue Door.” The 32-year-old said it will be an ode to Catholic Charities, which helped her find hope and get back on her feet. The title refers to the entrance to Catholic Family and Community Services (CFCS) building at 24 DeGrasse St., close to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Delgado, who was in the U.S. Navy from 2005 to 2009 serving on USS Curtis Wilbur stationed in Japan and later serving in San Diego, remembers the day she found CFCS and the day her life turned around. It was in the spring of 2018. She had just left the Passaic County Court House after a tenant-landlord dispute in which her landlord never remedied a pest infestation in her $1,800-a-month apartment. A single mother, after years in an abusive relationship, she was now homeless and six months pregnant with three other children.

Outside the courthouse, she sat on a bench and “just started crying because I had nowhere to go and I was homeless.”

An old lady, a total stranger, saw me crying and said to me, “I think they can help you there.”

The stranger had pointed to the entrance of CFCS. “My life changed completely at that moment. I’m thankful I didn’t lose hope and kept faith in God,” Delgado said. Through the CFCS’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), Delgado received much needed assistance to put her back on her feet and to help provide for her children. They provided her with temporary housing and later with a home. Eventually, they also were able to provide her with a car to make traveling easier with four children, including a newborn.

“When helping a veteran family, we go all the way, above and beyond,” said David Pearson, assistant director of veteran services at Catholic Charities. “Those who served our country have sacrificed so much. Jennifer came to us in dire need and now she has turned her life around.”

Beyond providing Delgado with housing and a car, veteran services helped her get benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), which included healthcare. Currently, she is in the process of receiving HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, which will provide her with rental assistance and other case management and clinical services offered by the VA.

Catholic Charities also helped Delgado and her family to create new memories with the help of its many partners. The Brenner Foundation based in Garfield provided Easter baskets for Delgado’s children and the American Legion Riders Post 174 provided a Thanksgiving meal for her family. “2018 was just a really memorable year for my children and me with the holidays,” said Delgado. “We even got a real Christmas tree for our home thanks to Catholic Charites. It’s those little things I’ll remember.”

Today, Delgado has a job traveling as a medical assistant for an orthopedic specialist in the tristate area. She looks to her future there and said, “There’s potential to move up and be in a management position. I’m hungry to keep going and to succeed. I want to keep living a better life for my kids as a mother and for my extended family as a daughter and a sister.” Of her time in the military, she said, “The Navy taught me how to be disciplined. It taught me time management and self-motivation.” She most recently put her U.S. Navy uniform back on for the 100th anniversary Mass for the Armistice of World War I on Nov. 11, during which she brought up the Offertory gifts.

For her long-term future, she even dreams of building a center for women and children who need a safe house if they are in a domestic violence situation. “I know what it’s like to live in a domestic violence home. I know what it’s like to live in a car or to be so desperate I have to steal milk for my children,” said Delgado. “I want to give back because Catholic Charities has given me so much hope for the future and my family.”

“Catholic Charities is proud to support our veterans who have given so much to our country,” said Scott Milliken, president of Diocesan Catholic Charities. “Jennifer, and others like her, have helped to keep us safe and free in our country. We are always here to help veterans and anybody else who might be in need.”

According to Catholic Charities’ website, the SSVF program provides supportive services to veterans with very low income who are at risk of becoming homeless. Veteran families are provided with a range of supportive services designed to promote housing stability.

The SSVF Program serves veterans residing in the counties of Passaic, Bergen, Morris, Sussex, Union, Hudson and Essex. Services provided include case management, outreach, financial assistance, employment opportunities, legal aid assistance, and advocacy to support the Veteran household. SSVF dollars are used to pay short-term rent and utilities, rental arrears, utility arrears, moving expenses, child care expenses, apartment application fees, client transportation costs, broker’s fees and other costs that directly support the housing stability of low-income Veterans per eligibility requirements. For more information, veterans can call the program’s confidential hotline (855) SOS- VETS (855) 767-8387.

Those who want to assist the work of Catholic Charities in helping veterans and so many others in need, can make a donation at www.ccpaterson.org/veterans.

“David (Pearson), Melissa (Schaber) and Madeline (Angeles), those are three people at Catholic Charities I owe so much to,” said Delgado. ”They made things happen for me and I am forever grateful to them and to Catholic Charities.”

[This article appeared originally in the Beacon, the newspaper for the Diocese of Paterson on February 20, 2019, authored by Cecile Pagliarulo.]