Yvette Alexander has been homeless for the past two years due to illness and financial struggles, making for a difficult time finding certainty and stability – that is until she found a temporary refuge at St. Lucy’s Emergency Shelter in Jersey City.
Back on December 6, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Catholic Charities CEO John Westervelt announced the construction of a new 150-bed St. Lucy’s homeless shelter to open later this year – replacing the current shelter.
Westervelt said at that time that a growing population in the shelter are older people who thought they could rely on retirement savings and pensions, but quickly realized they didn’t have the financial means.
“But what we’re seeing recently is more elderly people who though that they had enough money to retire with pensions, but they’re not, and they end up falling on hard times and all their money goes away and they end up on the streets of Jersey City,” Westervelt said last month.
On that note, Alexander told us that she entered hard times when she didn’t receive her social security payments.
“I was ill, in my apartment with my son, business as usual. But I wasn’t feeling well. So, life is going on and little by little all of my money starts to become depleted. And I was waiting for social security to kick in, but it didn’t. I ended up with nowhere to stay, and I ended up in the shelter and my son is staying with family,” Alexander said.
Additionally, Alexander has to use a walker since she suffers from seizures and syncope that cause her to suddenly lose consciousness. Nevertheless, she had the energy to walk up stairs so that she could show us her living quarters and speak to us about her experiences at St. Lucy’s.
She sleeps in a room that is surrounded by 30 beds, beds to the right, left and foot of hers. We asked her if that configuration made it difficult for her to get a good’s night rest in the midst of 30 strangers when she first entered the shelter.
She said she prefers being around people given her health struggles.
“I’m kind of an only child, even though I have a sister. But I always wanted a huge family, so it was easy for me. But maybe for some other people it would be difficult to accept. For me, however, it was a no brainer,” she explained.
“I love it. I like having a lot of other people around, especially with my seizures. So it’s comforting to know that other people are around, and looking out for you,” said Alexander.
In addition to the shelter providing three meals per day and clothing, Alexander noted that the shelter works with different social agencies such as religious institutions to organize different activities that makes life easier at times.
“St. Joseph’s bussed us to their facility during the holidays to see Santa Claus and reindeer. They played music and we were all up and dancing. You didn’t feel homeless, you didn’t feel different. You were just a person,” she stressed.
Alexander’s first goal in 2019 is to live in her own apartment again three months from now.
“I see myself in my own apartment, paying for my own food and grocery shopping. Although I can’t go out and work because I am totally disabled, I want to be able to help other people find their own destiny, and I’d like to come back here when I leave and help other people find their potential and also help them with a shoulder, a smile or a kind word to get their way through the same way the people here helped me.”