Home visits demonstrate our commitment to our neighbors in need.
Read three powerful, first hand accounts as Local Vincentians recount their moving home visits stories.
There’s no way around it - a home visit is a requirement for each new client. On an individual level, it is sometimes difficult to find the time to make these visits, but each Vincentian always tries to do their share of home visits. That is where I found myself one busy Tuesday evening when I had committed to a home visit.
The day had been extremely busy and I feared I would not arrive on time to meet the other member visiting with me. As it turned out, traffic cooperated and I arrived a few minutes early. I spent the few minutes to calm myself from the busy day and clear my head so as to focus on the client.
When we knocked on the apartment door, the gentleman took a few minutes to answer. He had recently undergone emergency open heart surgery and was getting around rather slowly. He had been in the hospital for a month and rehab for 3 weeks, and the doctor told him he would be out of work for an entire year. He was trying to figure out how he was going to stay in his apartment without an income. He had nowhere else to go. He was already three months behind in his rent. His landlord understood the situation but his tolerance was fading.
Although he was unable to work and really could not leave his apartment (other than to walk out to the curb once daily as his only rehabilitation), he was productively spending his time looking for help to pay his rent – wherever he could find it. As I looked around his efficiency apartment, I noted that he lived a very modest lifestyle.
His furniture consisted of a bed, a small table that served double-duty as a desk, a small wooden chair, and a recliner that his brother had bought for him to use during his recovery. Yet when we asked him if he needed any furniture or household goods, he said “no, I have everything I need.” He was receiving emergency food stamps of $194.00 a month, but when we asked if he needed additional help with food certificates, he again said he had all he needed. He stated he was down to $45.00 in his checking account, which was all the money he had.
We presented the case at our weekly meeting that evening. The other Vincentians were so taken by this gentleman’s situation and unassuming lifestyle that they not only wanted to pay his rent for him, but they also asked me to take the $50.00 of cash from our secret collection to him. I had never known the conference to give clients cash before and I have never seen it done since. This is something our conference just never does, as we cannot ensure what the cash will be spent on.
I returned to the client’s apartment later that evening with a different Vincentian, a new member who had not yet been on a home visit. We gave him the news that St. Vincent de Paul would be paying his rent and also gave him the cash from the secret collection. He was moved to tears and hugged me while thanking me over and over.
Although this client would not accept additional help for food or furniture, the home visit helped us to understand what a humble life this man lived and that he would not ask for help for anything other than what he absolutely needed.
Erin Carmody, St. Bernard Conference, Mt. Lebanon
The Power of a Personal Visit
It’s my second home visit that still burns in my memory and my soul. I was training with a Vincentian at my parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, in Carnegie when we made a house call to this particular couple. They were about to be evicted from the house they rented. The landlord lived across the street and would, without fail, pound relentlessly on their front door every morning looking for his rent check. It was a pretty desperate situation and time was running out.
As my partner and I sat and talked with the couple about their need and our willingness to help, the wife began to tear up. Choking back the tears, she said, “Nobody has said one kind word to us, until now.”
At that moment, I understood the importance of this personal meeting.
There was no one judging them. There was no one criticizing them. There was no one belittling them. There was only hope and optimism, trust and calmness, and a sense of caring and encouragement.
At the time, I had no idea how many people there were in our own backyard who desperately struggled to make a rent payment, to pay their electric or gas bill, or who needed food to put on the table for their kids. This home visit opened my eyes and allowed me to see that these are our neighbors who may have lost a job because of downsizing, or who have been diagnosed with a serious or terminal illness and can’t afford to pay for health coverage.
These are our neighbors who have no one to talk to and nowhere to turn.
Think of a time when you were hurting or in need and someone reached out to you. A time when you absolutely needed someone to talk to and someone was there for you, when you were worried about something and someone prayed for you or helped you in some tangible, practical way. Now, think of a time when they DIDN’T reach out to you – when you were on your own.
That is the importance of the home visit.
Cell phones and emails are wonderful inventions, but they will never be a substitute for the power of a personal visit.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Carnegie, PA
A Christmas Visit
A few days before Christmas, my home visit partner, Rose, and I were invited to visit a fifty-six year old woman who needed some help with her rent. We prayed the ‘Prayer Before A Visit,’ climbed the stairs, and were greeted by a woman with a kind smile and a wonderful spirit.
She had been living in her modest, well-kept two-story home for sixteen years and was on good terms with her landlord. As a bus driver she had been able to raise two good children and still care for herself -- even as cancer crept into her body. She had battled it before, but it had reared its ugly head once again. Because of the treatments, she was no longer able to drive a bus and she was not yet eligible for disability assistance or Medicare. Her family helped her as best they could, but she was running short on cash to pay her rent. Fortunately, she had a good landlord who was willing to work with her, but she did not want to fall too far behind.
Rose figured the best way our Society could help our hostess client was financially; but we, clients and members, all experience the spiritual benefits from being a part of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The spiritual, by far, exceeds the material but the material certainly helps to relieve the stress and concern which may detract from uplifted spirits.
After conversing with our hostess for a time, Rose asked her the size of her bed. It had happened that a person slated to receive bedding never responded to any of Rose’s contact calls, so Rose had been carrying a set of bedding in her car for more than a week. Our hostess wasn’t sure if it was a full or queen, and looked like she was considering a trip upstairs to find out. I suggested she might conserve her energy if it was okay for me to verify the size of the bed. She immediately nodded her head and agreed. I quickly determined it was a full size bed and Rose retrieved the bedding from the car, returning to present a beautiful floral comforter, two small decorative pillows, and a set of sheets to compliment the pale blue and violet colors in the bed spread – all encased in a clear plastic storage bag.
The woman’s eyes widened and beamed with delight at the unexpected gift. When asked if she would like us to make up her bed, her face faded somewhat – seeing this, Rose inquired if she wanted to perhaps wash the bedding first. No, that wasn’t it. She had a small, four foot Christmas tree tucked snuggly in the corner between the wall and the sofa, and she asked that the bedding be placed beneath her tree as a gift. We positioned the bedding so that she could look upon the beauty of the patterns and colors encased within the clear plastic as it reflected the sparkle of the Christmas tree lights.
We asked if we could pray the ‘Prayer With The Family.’ As we prayed, I believe three spirits were soaring with peace and love and hope. Rose and I asked if we might hug her. When I hug someone, I usually whisper a few unanticipated words into the ear of the person I am hugging. That day, however, I was speechless. My thoughts were filled with healing and comfort and love. I gave a firmer, slightly longer than usual hug in this silence and received a wonderfully warm embrace in return.
When I got home I prayed the ‘Prayer After The Visit.’ I continue to wish our hostess the grace and courage and love she needs to carry her through life – the prayer I pray for myself, all the people I meet, and the many that I will never meet in this lifetime.
Be and go with God – the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Wishing you all the grace and courage and love you need for a peaceful new year,
Marie Capezzuto, a fellow Vincentian