Helping Hands Stories

All names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of grant recipients.

Pia was injured when she was attacked by an unknown assailant and was unable to work for a month. When she reported the assault to her local precinct, the desk sergeant introduced Pia to a crime victim advocate with Safe Horizon’s Crime Victim Assistance Program. After reporting the crime, Pia connected with Safe Horizon’s Crime Victim Assistance Program and shared that she would be unable to pay her rent because of lost income while recovering from her injuries. Thanks to a Gerstner Helping Hands Program, Pia was able to pay her rent and recover in peace without worrying about falling into arrears. Pia is now back at work and very grateful for the one-time assistance to help her through such a difficult time

Safe Horizon

Lily and her two young sons, were forced flee for their life and move in with her mother after a devastating fire ravaged her apartment while they were at home. They had already been in psychiatric counseling at Columbia Presbyterian for issues around domestic violence and this incident further impacted their mental health issues. Despite both children receiving SSI benefits and Lily working as a teaching assistant, the family did not have the resources to replace essential household items and furniture once they were able to return to their apartment. Thanks to a Gerstner Helping Hands grant, Lily and her sons have been able to replace much-needed household items and return to their home. Lily and her family have expressed their enormous gratitude for this fresh start.

Havens Relief Fund

Bailey contacted Adopt-A-Family’s Housing Stabilization Program in need of rental assistance in March 2020. She had just taken in her four grandchildren because her daughter was going through personal issues and could not care for them. The unexpected expense of adding four people to her household took a significant toll on her budget. She was unable to make her rent payment and she feared that her grandchildren would have to endure more upheaval if she lost her home. A Gerstner Helping Hands grant enabled Bailey to get her budget back on track. Since then, Bailey reports that her family’s situation has improved significantly. Her daughter has stabilized, and her four children have moved back in with her and are thriving. Bailey has been able to work full-time and pick up overtime as a private home healthcare aid. Bailey is thankful that the Helping Hands program helped keep her family stable as she adjusted to caring for her grandchildren and has expressed her interest in volunteering with the agency as a way to give back to her community.


Ava is a 21-year-old college student who unexpectedly lost her mom due to a cardiac incident related to COVID-19 exposure. Ava and her mother were extremely close; while Ava helped support the household, which included her grandmother and her brother, with her job as a home health aide, her mom was the main provider for the whole family, including the apartment. After her mom’s passing, Ava received some assistance from HRA, but most of her savings went to the funeral expenses. Thanks to a Gerstner Helping Hands grant, Ava was able to pay first month’s rent and security to secure a new affordable apartment for her and her brother, enabling them to remain stable as they recover from their tragic loss. Ava works full-time and will be able to support herself and her brother moving forward.

The Door

Mira is a disabled mother of one. She received disability payments while her partner worked two jobs. When her partner was laid off at his primary job, the family was unable to make their rent payments. They were on the verge of being evicted before they received a Gerstner Helping Hands grant for $1,200 in December 2019. Thanks to this grant, they were able to stay in their home and have not fallen behind on rent payments again. One year later, Mira reports that her partner started a new job and has been able to stay employed throughout the pandemic

FamilyAid Boston

Marc is a senior citizen who has been a tenant of his rent stabilized apartment for forty years, who had been working as a companion to other seniors. He had an unfortunate string of medical emergencies this year that led him to fall behind in rent, including contracting COVID-19 as well as two unrelated surgeries. Marc has not been able to return to work yet, but began receiving disability benefits and unemployment, providing him with the future ability to pay his rent. He had been keeping up to date with his rent since getting his benefits, but still needed assistance with the arrears. He was able to secure some assistance from the New York State COVID Rent Relief Program, and with an additional Helping Hands grant from the Gerstner Family Foundation, Marc has been able to remain in his home while he recovers and prepares to get back to the work he so enjoys

Coalition for the Homeless

Lucy and her two daughters came to a Safe Horizon Child Advocacy Center after raising allegations of sexual abuse of the two daughters by Lucinda’s ex-partner, Due to unexpected expenses and financial pressures resulting from income loss during COVID-19 Lucy had fallen behind on rent. Although she has returned to work, she was unable to cover the full arrears that she had accrued. Safe Horizon was able to provide a Gerstner Helping Hands grant of $2,500 toward reducing the arrearage, and Lucy worked extra shifts to pay off the remaining arrears and resolve her case.

Safe Horizon

Ken received an emergency housing grant from Queens Community House in September 2019. At the time, he was without stable work and struggling to pay his rent. Now he reports that he remains stably housed in the same apartment and has a full-time job as a recruiter with a non-profit organization in Manhattan. He said that he is up to date on his rent and is making enough money to put some away for a “rainy day”, thankful to still have his job despite the pandemic. He is grateful for the rental assistance Queens Community House was able to give him.

United Neighborhood Houses

Amy was in need of legal representation after she received an eviction notice from her landlord. Amy had struggled financially since losing her employment. Amy’s young son is disabled and the care his disability required, and multiple doctors’ appointments limited her ability to maintain gainful employment. Once the courts put a hold on evictions, we advised our client to continue setting aside her payments for rent and save any additional she could manage. She applied for disability for her son and for rental assistance from DSS to assist her going forward. With the assistance from the Bridge Fund, DSS, and the Gerstner Helping Hands funds, our client was able to keep her apartment and maintain her family’s stability

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley

After Virginia’s spouse became violent, was incarcerated, and eventually deported, Virginia reached out to Adopt-A-Family’s Housing Stabilization Program in June 2019 for homeless prevention assistance. Virginia had to relocate from the apartment she shared with her spouse because she could no longer afford the monthly rent along with the other household expenses. Virginia’s oldest son moved in with his mother to help her with the bills and his younger siblings because they are both affected by autism. A year after receiving this life-changing assistance, Virginia reported that she and her family have remained stably housed, maintained employment despite COVID-19, and remained current with household bills.

Adopt-a-Family of the Palm Beaches

Juanita and her husband have lived in their current apartment for 23 years and have never fallen behind on their rent. Her husband has maintained a quality job in the same restaurant for many years which has allowed them to cover their monthly rent and utilities without a problem. In mid-March when the majority of restaurants shut down, Juanita’s husband was let go with the promise, in writing from his employer, that he would be brought back in June when the restaurant re-opened. They used savings to cover their April rent and utilities but were unable to cover May and were not eligible for unemployment or other benefits due to their immigration status. Queens Community House was able to provide a Helping Hands grant of $1,703 to cover one month of rent and utilities to get the family through until they returned to work in June.

United Neighborhood Houses

Mrs. R was 8 months pregnant when she was diagnosed with COVID. She had to have a C-section to protect her child, who was born healthy. She then had to be quarantined in the basement of the family home. Her husband had to take a month off from his job to take care of the baby and the other children. He was not paid for this month and thus could not pay his rent, so he was helped with a grant from the Gerstner fund, allowing the family to remain stably housed during this stressful time. The wife has now recovered, and the husband has been able to return to his job.

The Jewish Board

Linda is a hardworking fulltime employee at a local hospital, a single mother with one child. Linda and her son moved to Massachusetts to escape a domestic violence situation and start over. She had stressful custody disputes with her child’s father that also affected her working hours and changed her income for the worse. At the time that she applied for funding, this family had exhausted every option available to them for funding and housing, including sleeping on friends’ couches and sleeping in her car. In March 2019, she was granted $1,150 to assist with rent payments. When her caseworker from a partner agency followed up with her in December 2019, she stated that, thanks to the funding, her family was stably housed and was able to get back in good standing with her rental payments and maintain full time employment.

FamilyAid Boston

Ms. W is a single mother of a 2-year-old and 8-month-old. She was a sales executive at a women’s clothing wholesaler. All employees were laid off as a result of COVID-19 following the cancellation of current and future orders from every major customer as well as the shutdown of their California warehouse as a nonessential business. Ms. W has never been behind on her rent before but did not have the means to pay. She applied for unemployment benefits through the Department of Labor’s online portal but had not yet heard a response at the time she came to BronxWorks for assistance. A Helping Hands grant of $1,850 kept her up-to-date with rent until she could get unemployment


AB and her two children entered AVDA’s emergency shelter after fleeing her abusive partner. She was pregnant, unemployed, and afraid of what would come next. After settling in for a few days and receiving supportive counseling and assistance with emotional safety planning, she enrolled her children in daycare and attended a few courses that would help her secure employment. After securing employment, she found an apartment, and with the help of Gerstner funds towards her move-in costs, she was able to move into her new home, prepare for the arrival of her newborn and live violence-free with her children.

Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse

JC came to Project Home for rental arrears assistance because she experienced a decrease in employment hours and wages while taking time off to assist her five-year-old son who suffers from a chronic illness. Since working with Project Home, JC’s rent has been reduced, she received assistance from the Human Resources of Administration (HRA) One Shot Deal process, and she is receiving supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits. The majority of JC’s rental arrears were covered by a One Shot Deal from HRA and a Helping Hands grant from Project Home. JC has returned to work full-time and her five-year-old child is doing much better.

University Settlement

CB and JB are proud parents of four beautiful children. JB suffered an injury on the job that rendered him unable to work for over six weeks. The family exhausted their savings to stay afloat, but they fell behind on one month of rent and their landlord filed a court ordered eviction. With help from the Gerstner Family Foundation, we were was able to pay the family’s past due rent and prevent them from becoming homeless. During the course of agency intervention, JB completed physical therapy and returned to work. Additionally, CB received resume building assistance and was able to obtain a higher paying job. The family has remained current on rent since agency intervention and the parents are working to rebuild their savings.

Adopt-a-Family of the Palm Beaches

AVDA provided a grant to a survivor for her extensive dental needs from the physical abuse at the hands of her abuser. She needed 10 teeth to be repaired and felt uncomfortable interviewing for jobs until the work was completed. AVDA referred the survivor to Genesis Health, a community health center that provides low-cost dental services. With the grant provided through this funding, she was able to pay the $40 per tooth fee that is required by Genesis Health. After the dental work was completed, the survivor secured a very good job, got a car, and moved into her own apartment.

Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse

The client, Betty R., is an immigrant from Ecuador who worked in a clothing factory for many years before becoming disabled due to a deterioration of her spinal column. Her husband works as a cab driver and together they could afford a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. One of the deadliest fires in New York City history tore through their apartment building, killing 12 of her neighbors and leaving her and her husband with only the clothes on their backs. The next day we reached out to Betty and gave them free donated clothing and extra food to take to their temporary lodging with friends. We used Gerstner funds to buy additional clothing for her and her husband as most of their belongings have been destroyed by fire and water.

Part of the Solution

Rennie and her two sons fled domestic violence. They moved in with Rennie’s sister, but the apartment soon became overcrowded and the landlord ordered her family to leave. Through her own resourcefulness, Rennie found both an apartment and a job that enabled her to pay rent moving forward. However, she did not have enough savings to pay for her security deposit and moving costs. With the help of a grant the family was able to pay the deposit and moving costs. Rennie and her boys are now safe and happy in their new home.

FamilyAid Boston

Ireri and her husband Erick live with their two young children in a single shared room.  The family has a difficult time making ends meet and was devastated when Law Enforcement raided and destroyed their home wrongfully in an attempt to evict a different family.  This left them with a home full of broken furniture and nowhere to sleep. With a Helping Hands grant, we were able to purchase beds and linens for the family; they now each have their own bed to sleep in and can focus on maintaining the stability and well-being of their children.

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House

AW is a hard-working young lady.  She is currently pregnant. She has only six classes left to obtain her bachelor’s degree.  She missed two days of work, and when she returned, she did not have a doctor’s note so her employer terminated her employment.  AW was quickly hired by another company but the gap in employment left her short with paying her rent. Thanks to the generosity of the Gerstner Family Foundation, we were able to pay for one month of rent for this client.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach