LIGHT ONE CANDLE by Tony Rossi
“Can you help us?” asked the young woman with a baby.
The year was 1979, and Chris Bell was living and working in New York’s Times Square, helping homeless and runaway kids. Though he’d encountered a lot of different people in his work, he admitted to me during an interview on Christopher Closeup that he was “taken aback because I didn’t imagine with all the homeless in the city that there would be a young mother and a baby.”
Bell asked the young woman what happened, and she explained that when she found out she was pregnant, she was happy because she thought she and her boyfriend would start a life together. But, her boyfriend’s response to the pregnancy was, “Get rid of this thing.” The young woman felt so alone and depressed that she considered killing herself. Then she realized the baby inside her was innocent, so she couldn’t do that. After her daughter was born, her mother kicked her out of their home saying that she should be out on her own.
That’s what brought her to the shelter where Bell was working.
“Can you help us?” she asked him while holding up her baby.
I instinctively said, “yes,”
Bell recalled, “but I soon found out there was very little help. Unfortunately, it’s still true today. There’s very little help for a mom with a child. That’s what led to us eventually creating Good Counsel Homes.”
The five existing Good Counsel Homes in New York and New Jersey offer “residential care and community-based services for homeless, expectant, and new mothers and their children in the context of the Catholic social tradition.”
They have become a lifeline to desperate women since they were founded in 1985.
Bell said, “When a mother comes in, we assess her educational levels. She may have graduated high school, but may not be that good at reading or math. We help her along and encourage her to get into college or a vocational training program, to do something that will help her take that next good step in her life.”
The practice of faith is also encouraged.
Bell said, “We have a chapel in each of our homes, and every day the staff and the moms gather for some kind of praise or petition because God knows we need prayer every day. But, the women are invited. It’s not mandatory that they go into the chapel, but we invite them because we want them to get to know our Lord.”
In the years he’s done this type of work, Bell has faced many challenges—and new ones seem to crop up all the time. But Bell persists in his mission. As the inspiration behind his persistence, he credits the good example set for him by his family when he was younger—and even the stories about positive action he read in our Christopher News Notes, which his mother received.
The young mothers he helps are also an inspiration for him to continue his work.
He said, “We have a few moms, who were in our residences, who have gone on to college, and are now working with us because they want to give back. It’s so beautiful and encouraging to see. And, we know it’s only through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that any good can come of where we’re at.”
The Good Counsel Homes Helpline, which you can call from anywhere in the United States to receive assistance, is 1-800-723-8331. Their website is GoodCounselHomes.org.
For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, STAND UP FOR LIFE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tony Rossi is The Christophers Director of Communications.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 2 print edition.
Category: Spiritual Matters