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Faces of Poverty View Comments
By Photos by Gregory A. Shemitz

Years of smoking—combined with his job as a truck driver for a gas company prior to his retirement—have damaged Patsy Marino’s lungs. He relies on a tracheotomy and endures breathing treatments every three hours.
THERESA AND PATSY MARINO are two people who need much but have little. Patsy, 73, who worked for a gas company as a truck driver until he became sick in 1990, requires constant care. Suffering from end-stage chronic obstructive lung disease, he cannot breathe without a ventilator, which he’s been on since 1999. Patsy needs his wife’s help in every area of daily life. He cannot eat, bathe, walk, or dress himself without Theresa. If his ventilator stops working, even for a moment, he could die. She cannot leave his side. The two are, literally, prisoners of their home.

It’s a home they’re holding on to tenuously. The Marino family is among the 46.2 million Americans who struggle with poverty every day. They live off a limited income from Social Security. Food stamps, the food pantry at Mary Queen of Heaven in Brooklyn, Meals on Wheels, and a Greek neighbor with a flair for baking assist them as often as possible.

Catholic Charities also has helped. When the Marinos’ refrigerator broke and the landlord refused to replace it, Theresa, 68, sought help from caseworker Fia Sarmi of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens.

Despite the help—for which they are grateful—it’s still a rough road.

“I get disgusted sometimes—I’m not going to lie,” Theresa says. “It’s very hard, very hard.”


Gregory A. Shemitz is a photojournalist based in Stony Brook, New York. He is a regular contributor to The Long Island Catholic and Catholic News Service. His website is Text for this story was written by Assistant Editor Christopher Heffron.

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