“If being poor is bad, being poor and ill is a tragedy,” said Octavio Estévez while holding a photo showing two of his children, and begging for a miracle to relieve him from a plight that has pushed him to the edge.
Estévez, 54, of Dominican heritage, has a health condition that prevents him from working. His two kidneys are functioning at 20% of their normal capacity while his pancreas continues to worsen.
This father of four desperately needs an organ transplant, but not having a stable place to live – he currently lives in a shelter – prevents him from being placed on the list of potential organ donation recipients. Because of his circumstances, Estévez can’t work and he relies entirely on his disability check to survive.
“It’s sad to have nothing, not even to be able to pay rent,” explained Estévez.
“Every day, my young children ask me if I can buy them something for Christmas, even if it’s just a pair of shoes, and it pains me to tell them that I don’t have money,” said Estévez, while he dried his tears with a napkin.
“Every day I have to think about whether I’m going to continue to stay in the homeless shelter, because there is always a guard that is trying to kick you out,” Estévez added.
Estévez currently lives at a homeless shelter located at 115 Henwood Place, in the Bronx.
He explained that because he has difficulty standing up and lifting heavy things, he is not able to sustain a day job.
“My wife works 30 hours a week, but she doesn’t speak English, a problem that coincides with her having to care for the children,” he explained.
Estévez said that his situation has compelled him to seek help wherever he can find it. However, he stated, “None of the agencies that provide services will help, and moreover they treat you like an animal.”
City councilmember Ydanis Rodríguez pointed out that what happened to Estévez shows the lack of services available in Upper Manhattan, mainly in District 10, which Rodríguez represents.
“Affordable housing is practically nonexistent in this part of Manhattan, which forces many people to turn to homeless shelters because it’s impossible for them to pay their rent.”
Rodríguez criticized the widespread excessive bureaucracy in local government offices. The Dominican American politician also sent letters to the Human Resources Administration, the Department of Homeless Services, and even the New York City Housing Authority.
Heather Janik, spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services, said that in the last eight months, the agency has provided Estévez with a two-room apartment and that “we will continue to help him while we ask New York Presbyterian Hospital to reconsider his situation so he can receive a transplant.”