Spotlight Stories

Chris Coleman’s Amazing Gift

People from every corner of our community are stepping forward to help us build the new House of Mercy.

Chris Coleman grew up in Rochester. His father was a minister. His mother handed out food and clothing to the neighbors. He learned about the importance of giving at an early age.

When he became a young man, ready to embark on a career, he never imagined that, one day, he would find himself on the doorstep of a homeless shelter, needing food, clothing, and a safe, warm place to sleep.

Life Saver: The Story of Sister Rita

She was born in Elmira, N.Y., one of eight children in a household with a strong commitment to the Catholic faith. But early on a tragedy turned her life upside down. She lost her mother to breast cancer. And after that, it was a struggle for her father to keep the family together.

Fortunately, relatives, parishioners and nuns from the convent across the street came to the family’s aid.

“My father had a lot of support,” Sister Rita recalled recently. “But life was hard.”

Those difficult years gave her an education in the challenges that come with economic deprivation, an experience that is, in some ways, a foundation for her own service to the poor.

“I always had a deep sense of gratitude for the people who reached out to our family. I remember thinking how wonderful it was that people did kind things for us. That motivated me to look for ways to help other people who are hurting.”

From The Streets to Stable Housing

Al Freeman grew up in a middle-class black family.  He was hired at Kodak where he learned the skills needed for injection molding. But three months into the job, his three-month-old son died of SIDS. And that led him to look for an escape route. Before long he had a full-blown $1,000-dollar-a-week habit.

He went through a series of rehabs. But the problems continued. He soon discovered the irony to shelter life. “When your time’s up, they can throw you out in a blizzard,” he says.

If you’re homeless and suffering from addiction, any kind of stress can break down your best intentions. All of a sudden you’re outside, on your own, broke, with maybe a backpack and a few items to call your own. And the snow is coming down…

The Man With No Identity

In most cases, Richard’s physical problems would qualify him for Supplemental Security Income, which would help him get a home of his own. But Richard fell through a little-known hole in the safety net.

He didn’t have a birth certificate. And because of that missing piece of paper, he couldn’t get any assistance from agencies that help the poor and disabled. Which is why he had depended on the House of Mercy for everything he needed to survive for the past 14 years.

“I don’t know where I would be without the House of Mercy,” he said recently. “I would have had a lot of obstacles to battle on my own.”

Bianca’s Story Portrait of a Student Leader

She couldn’t read or write. She had learning disabilities and behavioral problems. And she struggled in one school after another.

But the House of Mercy never gave up on her. And finally with help from Hope Hall, a remarkable school that made her believe in herself, she blossomed.

Honor roll. Peer counselor. School ambassador. Student leader. Future police officer.

This is Bianca’s story.

Remembering Reggie

Reggie came to The House shortly after our move to Hudson Avenue. And he quickly found a home.

“He just dropped by one day and never left,” said C.W.

“I think Reggie found peace, safety and comfort here. He knew we were his friends and his mainstay in this world. He became a permanent fixture,” added Sister Grace.