The Day – ‘The situation is dire’ for a Haitian woman from Norwich


Norwich – With only around two months of accommodation, food and cash available, chronic kidney damage but no health insurance, a teenage girl struggling to complete high school and no discernible progress in her asylum claim immigration that would change everything, Joselaine Jean Pierre always smiles.

“He is a very faithful person,” said Sister Yannick Saez of St. Mary’s Church in Norwich, reflecting Jean Pierre’s comments on her vision. “She puts all her trust in God. God will take care of things, but we have to do a little to help him.

Jean Pierre, 52, has experienced a whirlwind of personal and medical crises over the past six years, beginning with a severe beating in his former home in Gonaïves, Haiti, by strange men who opposed opinions policies of her husband. Fleeing to the United States with two of her children, she came to Norwich in 2016 and had settled down with her family and friends, working and raising her two youngest children.

On May 30, 2017, she fell ill but went to an interview for a better job anyway. She collapsed at home and was rushed to Backus Hospital.

His world collapsed. Sepsis of unknown origin had attacked his body, forcing doctors to amputate his lower legs and all eight fingers and left him with kidney damage requiring dialysis treatment three times a week. She was in a coma for three months and spent two years and five months at Backus.

Norwich supporters raised funds and rallied support for Jean Pierre throughout this period, finding him a flat first in Norwich, then in New London, then when COVID-19 hit, back in Norwich in a first floor apartment in Greeneville in May 2020 She wears prosthetic legs and uses a walker, but still cannot work.

Now, with funds nearly depleted, Jean Pierre is in limbo and risks losing his Greeneville apartment by the end of June, while still awaiting a hearing on his asylum claim. The state canceled its emergency Medicaid when the number of coronavirus cases began to drop and, with ‘asylum pending’ status, Jean Pierre and his 18-year-old daughter Dina, a senior at the Norwich Free Academy, are not eligible for any public service. assistance, including public housing, SNAP food stamps, or general assistance.

“The situation is dire,” said Lee-Ann Gomes, who is the retired director of Norwich Human Services and helped Jean Pierre. “The team is short of funding for rent, food, utilities. His medical coverage was terminated. We are looking for help, donations, information on anything we might have missed, any service that helps immigrants. Any legal entity that works with immigrants.

St. Mary’s Church in Greeneville has repeatedly appealed for donations from parishioners, but the money is running out. Gomes said they informed the landlord, who allowed Jean Pierre to have a month-to-month lease, that they could pay until June. The group is looking for a smaller, cheaper apartment, around $600 a month, but it has to be on the first floor. They found nothing after an exhaustive search, including mobile homes, in this tight rental market.

As a last resort, Gomes said the group is considering shelter accommodations.

“It’s not the best for his health,” Gomes said. “And the shelters are supposed to be temporary, but we don’t know how temporary it would be for her.”

United Community and Family Services used a small pot of emergency medical transportation funds to get Jean Pierre for dialysis at the Backus Outpatient Center on Route 82 three times a week, but that money is also running out, a said Norma Glover, community outreach supervisor at UCFS. Backus absorbs dialysis costs.

The UCFS emergency fund had only $600 left for this fiscal year in March for medical transportation for all patients in need. Uber rides to take Jean Pierre to treatment cost about $15 each, Glover said.

“So we won’t be able to support Joselaine any longer, maybe until May,” Glover said. “Really, it’s a very, very difficult and sad situation, because our hands are tied. Joselaine has no status that will help her with medical care, housing, food.

Havingi Grant, district director for the Norwich office of US Democratic Representative Joe Courtney, has requested that Jean Pierre’s asylum be expedited by the US Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency processes asylum applications on a first-come, first-served basis, Grant said, and it’s difficult to expedite a case for someone already in the United States who isn’t coping. to the political danger of his country of origin.

Jean Pierre visits Grant’s office once or twice a month to check on his status and work towards obtaining a humanitarian visa for his eldest son, Dumas, 29, and tourist visas for her ex-husband, Dieufoit , to visit. The couple’s youngest son, Kensley, who was born in the United States, now lives in Haiti with his father. Another son, Dukens, 20, is also in Haiti.

“We cannot send her back to Haiti. It would be a death sentence,” Gomes said, due to Jean Pierre’s need for dialysis and the expensive medication that comes with it.

Gomes also asked Grant to try to get a Medicaid waiver to get Jean Pierre covered again.

All these requests remain pending without delay for responses.

“Of course we’re all waiting,” Glover said. “The magic key is that Joselaine gets asylum. Then she would qualify for Medicaid, SNAP, and we could file for public housing.

Jean Pierre says she tries to keep a positive attitude and is very grateful for all the help her supporters have given her so far. But there is one subject that immediately brings tears to her eyes: Dina.

Dina’s school years were marked by uncertainty, family separation and her mother’s health. When her mother fell ill, Dina moved to live with relatives in Florida as a teenager. She returned when her mother was discharged from hospital but had to change schools from Norwich to New London to return to Norwich and NFA.

Throughout high school, she maintained good grades and even started studying Chinese on her own. Now she has a Chinese course at the NFA. But in her own words, “I’m discouraged by school.” Just two months away from graduation, Dina’s grades plummeted. At one point, she missed two consecutive weeks of school, her mother said, and recently failed an Algebra II test.

“I can’t get her to school,” her mother said in English. “She has to go to school.

Sister Yannick was shocked to learn that Dina’s grades had dropped from her usual A’s and urged the girl to return to school, seek help from school counselors and graduate.

“At worst, I’ll just go to summer school,” Dina said.

Dina works around 17 hours a week at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Norwich and as an usher at the Mohegan Sun Casino. As an immigrant with pending asylum status, she would not qualify for college financial aid and gave up that prospect.

Dina has another dream. She wants to join the US Marines and study technical engineering while serving in the military. She said she spoke with a recruiting sergeant.

But that’s yet another avenue closed to him at the moment, Grant said. The army has changed its rules and no longer allows immigrants awaiting status to enlist. Dina must be a lawful permanent resident or US citizen to enlist.

“It’s heartbreaking at every turn,” Grant said of the Jean Pierre family’s situation.

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