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A Day at the Houston Catholic Worker: Grown Men Cry

Pedro kept telling me about the problem: He can’t work anymore and thus can’t pay the rent for the one room apartment where he and his wife live. We know his place because we had given the furniture for the apartment and moved their few belongings.

Pedro said that he was waiting for a bus at Shepherd and Washington in front of an abandoned building when a man came up from the building and put a knife in his back. He took Pedro’s wallet with all the money he had ($23.00). As Pedro was telling this, he took off his shirt and showed a row of clamps where he had been stitched up at the hospital. Fortunately, his internal organs were not touched. It is not unusual for our men to be opened from the chest cavity to below the navel in case internal organs have been hit after a stabbing, usually related to being robbed.

Immigrants are sitting ducks for thieves and robbers, as the former don’t have any access to banks.

Jose weeps

Jose is obviously ill. He came to us at the recommendation of a social worker. The social worker was informed by Jose’s physician that unless he stopped living on the street he was going to die. We can accept Jose. However, it is very difficult for him, because he is in need of specialized medical care, which is hard to come by. He is having difficulty arranging an ID, which would allow him to be declared eligible for this special treatment. Unless he gets the care, he is going to die without going to the street.


Jaime is weeping as he watches one of the many trains that go by the hiring hall.

Jaime is trying to hide his tears as he stands in front of the hiring hall office which is almost on the tracks (the reason no one objects it its being there).

Jaime is crying because the train reminds him of his journey here on a train, a very harrowing experience. It may also remind him of going home, where he really wants to be.
Not a Crime to Cheat Workers

An immigrant can go to jail for years for traffic tickets, but the person who cheated him of his wages–thousands of dollars–goes scott free, because it is not a crime to neglect payment of wages, simply poor business practice.

One contractor who lives nearby has cheated a number of people of their wages. He has literally gained thousands of dollars, a tremendous amount of money, simply by refusing to pay his employees.

The Pattering of Little Feet

The doorbell rang, but before we could get up to answer it, several small children raced past the one “office” Casa Juan Diego has, heading toward the entrance of the women’s and children’s house, where the donations, waiting to be sorted, fascinate the children. The toddlers know that (for safety’s sake) they are not supposed to be in the entrance or in the kitchen unless their mothers are taking them somewhere, which makes it all the more interesting for them when they have the chance to break through. We caught them, responding to their conspiratorial smiles, and returned them to their mothers.

There were actually three different people at the door. One woman had been at our clinic and had come for her medicine. Another asked if we had a bed to donate, since her family was sleeping on the floor. The third asked if there was an empty room–she was pregnant and alone. We were able to respond to two of the requests, but at this time we didn’t have an extra bed to give. Often we do, if friends of Casa Juan Diego have been able to bring one to us.

Another woman arrived at the door to ask if our doctors would be able to help her with her problem. She did not know whether or not she had been sterilized in Mexico and she would like to know whether she was still able to have children or not. She had not signed and her husband had not signed to give permission, but she suspected it might have happened anyway. We encouraged her to come to the clinic.

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

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXII, December 2001.