Caseworkers help clients break the cycle of poverty

By Debbie Bosak
Northwest Indiana Catholic


Over the last 75 years, the reason for being for Catholic Charities has been the thousands of people it has faithfully served in their times of need. No one would better know the faces of these people than the caseworkers who work on the front lines day after day. For them, despite the countless problems and challenges, they find hope, often in the face of despair.
Otilia Costa-Lima, a co-manager of emergency services, worked at Catholic Charities for three years, starting with Gateway, a federally-funded program to help the chronically homeless suffering from mental illnesses. Costa-Lima recalled working with a woman who had sought shelter in a shelter for victims of domestic violence. With a two-year-old by her side and pregnant with another child, she struggled to exist. The part-time job she had was hardly enough.
With the help of Catholic Charities, Costa-Lima said, the woman received rent assistance and was able to move her family into an apartment. She went on to find a better job and eventually remarried. But the story didn't end there.
Because of the assistance she received from the agency, the woman felt moved to help others in need. She became a hospice volunteer.
"That made my heart melt because I knew the struggles she faced," said Costa-Lima.
Another example of the great good Catholic Charities brings to the community is that of another woman struggling to leave an abusive relationship. Legal problems landed her in jail and she lost custody of her two older children. She was pregnant with a third.
"Upon her release, Catholic Charities helped her find a home," Costa-Lima explained. "She calls me every month. She has been reunited with her children and is now employed. Sister Barbara (Sable) would always tell us that God will provide and he does.
"This is something I couldn't do without God," she continued. "If all else fails, I can always pray for them."
Caseworkers for the agency give clients the tools they need to get a handle on lives that seem to be spinning out of control. Through the assistance they receive, parents can have a positive impact on subsequent generations, accomplishing one of the missions of Catholic Charities – breaking the cycle of poverty.
Kay Hosner, also a co-manager of emergency services, describes a typical day.
"Today I started out by loading my car with move-in supplies – pots, pans, dishes, glasses, cleaning supplies – for a lady with literally nothing but the clothes on her back," Hosner said. "This was a working woman who hit on bad times – one who lost her housing. Through the Gateway program I was able to take her to a new apartment."
According to studies by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, up to 25 percent of those living on the streets show symptoms of serious mental illnesses.
"Living on the streets can exacerbate, not only physical problems, but also mental," Hosner explained. "We were able to give the woman a bag of groceries and are now awaiting furniture donated from Sojourner Truth House.
"Without Catholic Charities, she would be homeless right now," Hosner added. "Needless to say, she was thrilled. And that was just my morning."
Hosner admits she sees God working through their programs every day.
"Because we're a Catholic organization, we can pray with clients when they're open to prayer. We can counsel them in a spiritual sense and it brings them a sense of comfort," she said. "You can't do that in a secular social services agency."
God is also present in the many volunteers who lend a hand and their services to help others, both women were quick to add. But, perhaps most touching, clients bring the face of God to the workers.
"So many clients are alive in their relationship with God." Hosner said. "They share that with us all the time."

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