Ana's career as a receptionist at a major New York law firm came to an abrupt end in 2007 when an economic downturn resulted in layoffs. Now 66, she still presents herself as the professional assistant she was – tasteful in her appearance and manner.
Shortly after she lost her job, she moved her mother into her apartment in Jersey City to care for her. Her mother could no longer live alone because of Alzheimer's Disease. That compassionate decision came with a huge financial cost that eventually brought Ana to homelessness.
“When my mother was bedridden towards the end, I was able to place her in a nursing home,” Ana recalled. But by then, she had no money at all, was in debt, and had sold off most of her possessions. Behind on her rent, she had to give up her apartment. “It was like one blow after another.”
At first, she tried to live with a relative but that didn't work out, so she stayed at St. Lucy's Shelter in Downtown Jersey City. Social workers helped her apply for benefits and referred her to a boarding house on Gates Avenue.
“I was homeless for a year and a half,” she said. After a lifetime of working hard and taking care of obligations, she seems still stunned by that reality.
Today, Ana proudly resides in a one-bedroom apartment in West New York, having been referred to and accepted by the United Way of Hudson County's Collaborative Solutions Program, a federally funded program for the chronically homeless.
“It's a mansion to me,” she said of her apartment, which is located close enough to Bergenline Avenue that she can walk to stores and visit her sister, who lives nearby. “It's quiet and peaceful. To me, it's paradise.”