My relationship with home hasn’t changed much in my twenty years of living. Born in what was once called St. Vincent’s Hospital (now Richmond Memorial Hospital), my parents raised me in a small, modest apartment by the Staten Island Mall. The apartment occupies the lower level of a two-story home, the upper level of which my aunt and landlady occupies. My parents, who were born and raised in Manhattan, elected to raise their children in Staten Island twenty-two years ago, and it was then that they settled down in my now-Home.
My Home is nothing like my dorm room, or what my relatives affectionately call my “home.” Often, when I am returning to school after a long break, my mother will kiss me goodbye and say in a sing-song voice, “Have a safe trip home!” Moments like this stick out in my mind, times when my mother could not be more wrong.
Don’t get me wrong. I do love my residence hall and the SUNY New Paltz campus as a whole. Nonetheless, that is not my home; that is my school, the rock that grounds my studies and the work that I tirelessly undertake everyday. But the dorm, that is not my home. Home is where my mother makes arroz con gandules, or rice with beans, and pernil, or roast pork, around the holidays. Home is where my siblings and I poorly play Mario Kart 8 then swear that we will come in first place next time. Home is where I hang up the hand-drawn Marvel’s Avengers poster my dad drew for me last year.
Still, I know I am very fortunate to readily conjure a vision of home. Some people, like the same man who drew me my Avengers poster, are not so lucky. For the past three years, my dad’s been couch-surfing after a less-than-civil separation from my mother rendered him homeless. My siblings and I watched helplessly as our father migrated across Staten Island, exhausting his reserve of friends and relatives who could afford to house him. Currently, he is residing with one of my uncles and his family, but there is no telling where he will end up next.
RUPCO’s daily work helps people like my father secure safe and affordable housing. Their initiatives have touched countless lives in the city of Kingston and beyond. Because of my work at RUPCO, I’ve facilitated important conversations with my father about his future and finding the help he needs to secure that future. Every day, when I see the faces of those who have benefitted from RUPCO’s mission, I think of my father. It is my pleasure to assist in RUPCO’s efforts and to be a part of their goal of creating homes, building communities, and impacting lives.
Stephanie A. Lopez is a graduating senior from SUNY New Paltz and is currently the Editorial Assistant in RUPCO’s Communications and Resource Development Department.