Together as a Family, Always

VOA-Greater New York wishes a Happy Father’s Day to all dads and father-figures!

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All Kelvin ever wanted was to be with his children.

While he was proud to serve in the military and loved the way it allowed him to see the world, as soon as he became a father, he would rush home to be with his family every chance he got.

When Kelvin’s time in the service ended, he returned home to the Bronx to be with them, taking a job at a restaurant where he worked long hours for a low wage to support them. The days were tough, but he didn’t mind because it meant they could be together as a family.

But the mother of Kelvin’s children developed a substance use issue, and her violent behavior caused him to have to leave the home. The children, ages 17, 15 and 10, were placed in foster care. Kelvin fought for custody.

As an employed and doting father, the only obstacle to getting custody of his children was that he didn’t make enough money to afford an apartment big enough for all of them. To keep the family together, he had to enter the shelter system.

From the moment Kelvin and the children arrived at VOA-Greater New York’s Bushwick Family Residence in Brooklyn, he was amazed by how welcoming, respectful, and helpful the staff were. They assisted him with applying for food stamps, supplied essentials like toiletries, and even provided festive food for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. They also ensured his children had all the school supplies they needed for the year through Operation Backpack®, and set them up with laptops for remote learning during the pandemic.

But it was difficult for VOA-Greater New York staff to place Kelvin and his family into permanent housing given his income level. He made just over the limit to qualify for public housing, but too little to afford a market-rate apartment.

Finally, after almost a year at the shelter, staff figured out a way for Kelvin to get an apartment for his family.

In the fall of 2021, when the government was releasing COVID-19 emergency housing vouchers to individuals and families who were homeless or at risk of homelessness, Housing Specialist, Stephanie Guerrero, checked to see if Kelvin could be eligible. To her delight, he was. She immediately began helping him with all of the paperwork necessary to apply.

Then, in February 2022, Kelvin and his children moved into an apartment all their own.

“The kids each have their own rooms now,” he says, with a smile. “The oldest has enrolled in trade school, the middle is in grade ten and the youngest is in grade six.”

As for Kelvin, he feels relieved and optimistic for the first time in a long time. “I feel like I can start planning for the future.”

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