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New Legs, New Needs, Mail-Order Brides and New Friends

Julio Cesar jumped from a train in Odom, Texas, but slipped and fell under the wheels, losing a leg. He doesn’t remember a thing, but woke up in the county hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. The hospital social worker who called us remembered that he had sent us guests when he worked in Victoria, Texas–again a person in an accident who came to us through the Salvadoran consulate.

The social worker knew that Julio could not receive help from local agencies. He was homeless because he did not have proof of legality. This proof is hard to come by. Seveal years ago we received an older man who had been in this country over forty years, but could not garner proofs to get aid. Homeless, then, he came to Casa Juan Diego for several years.

Hospital social workers just love Casa Juan Diego because we accept these homeless, sick, injured or battered people. Ben Taub social workers like Mary Helen Pritchard and Marlene Polka have become a part of Casa Juan Diego and are generous supporters. They have sent many guests to Casa Juan Diego who were homeless upon discharge.

Out of state or out of country family members who are visiting their sick or dying at the Medical Center come to Casa Juan Diego. The other side of the coin–if there was no Ben Taub, Houston would become a Bangladesh with need for a Mother Teresa.

Hospitals, like Ben Taub, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Hermann (Freddy, shot in the back in the Sept.-Oct. issue came from there), Memorial, St. Joseph’s and hospitals in the surrounding counties have sent us literally hundreds of people who were homeless upon discharge. No one would accept them.

The problem is not just that these people are homeless. The bigger problem is the scarcity of shelter space for anybody in Houston. Agencies would much rather do counseling and education than provide hospitality, because when you house people, you have the thankless task of trying to start all over with people who have limited resources. You cannot close the door at 5:00 p.m. and be unavailable. The longer people live with you, the greater challenge you have to be able to empower them.

Back to Julio. We picked him up at the Greyhound Station, which is our second home, and took him to meet Miguel, who lost both legs to a train in Houston.

Both were depressed upon arriving at Casa Juan Diego, but as their legs healed, they began to think about prostheses (artificial limbs). Both have appointments in several months to arrange new legs. It will be very expensive for us, but we have made a promise to them that we must keep. In the meantime they are going to English classes at St. Ambrose parish.

Being Thrown in Street

We have received calls from churches and agencies telling us stories about people being evicted from government housing.

One was a family of blind people, another a mother and her six children. Could we help? Some of the members of the families were born here or had papers, but others didn’t. Those families would be homeless. We guessed that maybe the children could live in the government apartments, but not their mother.

We cringed as we thought of the many families we know who have some children born here and some not. Where will they go?

Mail-order Brides

It is not uncommon for various Latin American consulates to send us women who have come to the United States as mail-order brides of U. S. citizens looking for a “good woman.”

After the marriage does not work out some of these women end up on the street, homeless.

Worse yet are those citizens who go to Mexico and Central America to look for and romance young Latin women whom they marry even in church and bring to the United States only to abuse them something fierce and threaten deportation.

What a Team

Some of our guests can’t hear or speak or see. Others have to be their eyes, their ears and their words.

Many people who come to Casa Juan Diego have their legs, their hands, their eyes, their ears and they can speak (Spanish), but they have no family, no friends, no identification, no sisters, no brothers and no place in the inn.

But they have us. And they have you. What a team! Christmas peace be with you.

M.L.Z., L.Y.Z.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XV, No. 8, December 1995.