Our Shalom House Case Manager, Joe Domko, shares Carlos’ story…

Carlos spent 247 days in our Shalom House Men’s Shelter program. A 24 year-old immigrant from Puerto Rico, Carlos struggled with chronic health issues from severe malnutrition in his youth and a significant language barrier. For months he languished to get his health back, and he benefited greatly from our bi-weekly visits with Care Beyond the Boulevard’s health team.

After about six months of acclimating to the culture of our Shalom House, Carlos landed his very first job as a cook at the local McDonald’s restaurant. I will never forget watching him return to the house following his first shift at work. I was just about to lock the front door as it was late and there he was, walking up the street in the darkness, chest out and shoulders wide. As he got closer I could see the smile stretched out across his face. If you not for the uniform, you would have thought he was a rich man walking out of an office on Wallstreet or 5th Avenue, a true master of the universe.

He was as proud as any man I have ever seen. I marveled at the effect a job can have on the dignity and self-worth of a human being. To an overly-privileged person, a job in fast-food might be perceived as an abject failure within an affluent social network. But to Carlos, it symbolized a sense of self-fulfillment and sufficiency that had been many years and untold hardships in the making. I felt immense gratitude and humble awe as I welcomed him home; I was in the presence of true greatness.

Carlos’ confidence grew. He maintained his job and worked hard. He applied for housing. Within three months his voucher came through. One day he came up to my office and announced he would be leaving to live in his own apartment. A familiar smile stretched across his face.