Sitting in the spotless living room of Carmen Ibanez, one will hear cries of “Mama, Mama” emanating frequently from one of the bedrooms in the 3-bedroom apartment that is part of the Camillus House Mother Seton housing facility in Homestead. Those cries are coming from 10-year-old Josie, who suffers from cerebral palsy.
Like so many others, it was a single piece of paper nailed to a door that sent Carmen Ibanez’s world into a tailspin. Her husband Roberto had lost his construction job, they were unable to pay the rent, and then came the eviction notice.
With that eviction notice, the Family, which includes their disabled daughter, two daughters: 15-year-old Jessie and 12-year-old Maria, and the children’s Grandmother, faced the very real possibility of homelessness.
“I was desperate,” Carmen recalls; the family was running out of money and options. Carmen was frantically calling everyplace she knew of for help and just when things looked their bleakest for Carmen and her family, someone threw them a lifeline; someone told them to call Camillus House.
“I was very scared at first,” says Carmen. She thought of Camillus House only as a soup kitchen and dormitory shelter. Like many in the greater Miami area, she had no idea of the extensive range of services that Camillus House offers those in need.
First and foremost, Camillus House provided the Ibanez family the most basic of necessities: food and shelter. The family was put into a unit at the Mother Seton Housing Program, which provides permanent housing in units built on the former Homestead Air Reserve Base. The facility Opened in August of 2000 and provides a total of 36 apartments for families in desperate situations like the Ibanezs.
Carmen now has a safe place for Elizabeth to be cared for and her daughters have a quiet place so that they may study in the hopes of one day going to college.
But food and shelter are only the first aspects of Camillus House’s continuum of care. Working with their case manager, the family is now able to address lingering issues that took a back seat to mere survival during the family’s first decade in America.
Now that Carmen’s husband is working again, Camillus House is working with the Ibanez family on creating a household budget and saving money so if the family falls on hard times again, they will have something to fall back on. Camillus is also helping the family navigate the bureaucratic maze of public assistance and guiding them on immigration issues so the family can realize it’s dream of becoming American citizens. Camillus House is also helping to refer Carmen to an adult education program so that she can learn English.
When asked if she wanted to say anything to those people whose donations make it possible for Camillus House to do what it does, Carmen tears up. “First of all I want to tell them Thank You, Thank You for giving to an organization that provides such important services. But I also want them to talk to their friends and relatives to and tell them to give as well. There are so many families in need.”
The Ibanez’s were one such family but, thanks to Camillus House, their needs are not as great and their future has never been brighter.
*names changed to protect family privacy
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