In the midst of our most recent heatwave, even my quick walk to the train on my evening commute felt like a daunting task. Too hot, too humid, to even think straight, let alone walk one mile. And I was headed back to my air-conditioned apartment!
On one particularly sweltering evening, I was listening to a podcast on my walk as per usual, dreading the remaining 6 blocks until I reached my train. As I approached the corner of 28th street and 7th avenue, a woman stopped me to ask for help. I won’t lie – as many of us do, I considered apologizing and continuing on my way, but something about the way she looked at me – pleading with me to give her a moment of my time – gave me pause.
She apologized profusely for interrupting, and continued on to thank me for taking a second to hear her out. “I’ve been trying to ask women for help,” she said, “I’m currently homeless, and I’m five months pregnant – I left my abusive husband and I can’t find a shelter that will take me right now. They’re all full.”
I asked what I could do for her, and she was quiet for a second before saying, “if you don’t mind, I could really use a place to sleep tonight and a shower – I can get a hotel room with those Visa gift cards and get out of this heat. I’m Elizabeth, by the way.”
As we crossed the street together to head into a Duane Reade, Elizabeth opened up a bit more. I asked her how long she had been away from home, and she explained that at this point, it had been weeks. She showed me bruises on her arm and neck, and explained that she left because she was afraid to put her baby at risk. “But, now I have nowhere to go. And the shelters are all full. I’ve had no idea what to do.”
We wandered the aisles, picking up the gift card, some shampoo and soap, snacks and Gatorade to help Elizabeth stay hydrated on this 97 degree day. We agreed that the heat in New York City is no joke.
Before we parted, Elizabeth off to find a hotel room and some respite from sweat and dehydration, and myself to finish my commute, I made sure to give her a Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen referral card.
We don’t have shelter here, I told Elizabeth, but we do have a Social Services manager who can give you shelter referrals, and legal counseling referrals, as well as toiletries and access to a phone. I made sure she knew she would be able to find a hot, well rounded meal at the Soup Kitchen every weekday too, no matter the weather.
“I had no idea!” Elizabeth said, and then confirmed, “it’s really right around the corner?” I pointed down 28th street and told her she only had to go a couple more blocks and she’d find the Soup Kitchen. We then each continued on with our days, and I’m hoping that by now, she has been able to find a safe place to stay out of the sun and off of the streets.
If you’d like to carry referral cards for Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, please email [email protected] with your full name and address. And if you’re able to donate to help support our services for people like Elizabeth, click here.