We are very sad to report that another day worker was found dead yesterday in Palisades Park. A pastor had allowed a few of the workers to sleep for a few hours in the basement of the Rectory. On the following morning, the worker was found dead.
According to the article by Monsy Alvarado (see below) the cause of death has not been determined. However he had been sleeping out-of-doors for some time, and also had alcohol issues and no health care.
Life in the U.S. is becoming ever more difficult for the people who have come here looking for a better life, or fleeing violence at home. When we ask them if they would rather be back in their home country than enduring these conditions, the answer is nearly always no. When there is work, most are able to save money, send some home, and put some aside for the hard times. But sometimes it is not possible, and they fall into homelessness and alcoholism and life is very difficult and dangerous.
There are no resources for them. A county shelter in Hackensack will take them during the coldest months, but only to sit up in chairs all night. To our knowledge there are no other shelters in Bergen County available for them. Some towns, like North Bergen, have warming centers where people with no heat can go during the day; but we have not found any of these in the Pal Park area.
Other options are also blocked. It is no longer possible to rent a room or an apartment without a Social Security number. Motels are terribly expensive and also require ID. People who once were friends and would share a room tend to turn away when a person has fallen into the life of the homeless. And even churches and pastors who would willingly allow someone who is down and out to spend a night or two in a church basement risk running afoul of local ordinances, as happened in this case.
We know that many people will turn away and just say, “They are illegal. They shouldn’t be here.” But we need to understand that many of the workers are following in the footsteps of previous generations, who have come without papers, found good work, provided well for families in their home countries, and eventually been able to return. The workers have not changed–but the laws have changed. There are no lines to stand in to “wait your turn” for a visa. If you are here already and you return, the wait to be able to apply is as much as 10 years. And if you were here before, you will never be eligible to apply.
At this season, when Christians celebrate the birth of a baby who was born in a manger, we need to think of these others for whom there is no room in any inn. For information on how to help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.