When the ladder broke from underneath Rosa Guzman’s husband, Francisco, he fell 20 feet to the ground and broke both his ankles. He had been doing electrical work on top of a house roof in Phoenix. Alone and in excruciating pain, he yelled for help for almost 30 minutes until one of his coworkers found him and called an ambulance.
Such a workplace accident always has lasting effects on a family physically, mentally and financially. But living through the accident during the COVID-19 pandemic made everything more difficult. St. Vincent de Paul’s continued services helped carry the Guzman family through with food and bill assistance.
Immediately after the fall, Francisco went through multiple surgeries, a month-long stay in the hospital and another month at a physical therapy facility.
“We couldn’t visit him while he was in the hospital because of COVID-19 safety measures,” Rosa said. “Thankfully, we were able to see him through video calls, but I wish I could have been there for him [in person].”
Francisco had been the breadwinner for his wife and three children — Kendra, Kenya and Alexis, ages 6 to 15. Now they suddenly had no income, no hope of Francisco returning to work anytime soon and no job waiting for him. Adding to the frustration, the pandemic made it difficult for Rosa to find a job.
In order to buy groceries, she had to dip into her family’s savings from many years of work. Every cent counted, and Rosa lamented the increase in prices for produce and personal hygiene items. The package of four rolls of toilet paper she buys used to cost $1 but now costs $2.50.
“That’s more money that I have budgeted to spend,” said Rosa, whose savings weren’t enough to cover rent and utility bills as well.
“I felt like everything was falling apart,” she continued. “We didn’t have anybody to support us economically and emotionally. All my family is in Mexico and my husband was in the hospital, so I felt alone. I was depressed and anxious.”
Rosa didn’t have relatives nearby, but she did have a support system at St. Vincent de Paul.
She and the girls often dined at SVdP during the nonprofit’s typical Family Evening Meal paired with educational activities in the Dream Center. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, all those services have changed and now get offered via to-go meals and take-home packets through the Family Dining Room drive-thru window.
When Rosa pulled up one night, she just needed someone to talk to, but she received so much more care than she expected after confiding in Dream Center Supervisor Cindy Bernardo.
“SVdP already does so much for my family,” Rosa said, “so I didn’t intend to ask for help. I just wanted to talk with somebody who would understand how I was feeling.”
Cindy listened carefully, and as soon as their conversation was over, she called SVdP’s Homelessness Prevention Services Manager Jackie Solares, to ask for resources that could help the Guzman family.
“Within a few days, we were already receiving help from SVdP,” Rosa said. “Volunteers called and asked about our needs. The next thing I knew, I had a food box and a $900 check for my overdue rent for April and May. It was a blessing and a huge relief.”
On top of all the food and financial help, SVdP also provided Francisco with the wheelchair he uses since returning home. He won’t be able to walk for at least six months, which means the Guzman family must still survive for 180 days or more without any income. On top of that, they now owe $250,000 in medical bills from Francisco’s treatment and hospital stay.
So they aren’t out of the woods yet, but the Guzmans are optimistic and feel they have a better chance at stabilizing after receiving stop-gap help from St. Vincent de Paul. They still have food, a home and their father.
“This pandemic hit us hard, but thanks to St. Vincent de Paul, my children haven’t suffered,” Rosa said. “We are very grateful to have a second family like St. Vincent de Paul that can support us during hard times.”
When families fall, St. Vincent de Paul is there to help lift them back up. Families with surprise emergencies and typical needs continue to walk through our doors. COVID-19 only further complicates the already complicated. Help us greet each family and each circumstance with the dignified service and help that will get them through. Donate today to our COVID-19 Family Relief Fund.