Elderly Middle Village woman without a home looks to community for support

Photo courtesy of Crystal Wolfe

When someone from their neighborhood falls on hard times, Middle Villagers come together to lift them up, and one homeless resident is benefiting from the kindness of her neighbors.

Geraldine Gromwaldt is a 63-year-old woman from Middle Village who has been homeless for two and a half years. She previously lived with her partner George, but he died very suddenly — only four days after being diagnosed with cancer — leaving Gromwaldt without the money necessary to pay the bills on her own, even though she has several cleaning jobs and receives limited social security funds.

Seven months after her partner died, she was evicted from her apartment.

Gromwaldt then reached out to the Community United Methodist Church (CUMC) of Middle Village for assistance. The church members immediately found her a shelter in Brooklyn. But due to fear of the intense screening process and testing, Gromwaldt did not complete the process and could not stay at the shelter.

“I never have felt sorry for myself,” Gromwaldt said. “If I had enough for bills and food, I was grateful. If I didn’t have enough, I didn’t complain, I just kept going.”

Several members of the church have allowed Gromwaldt to stay with them in their homes and the CUMC allowed her to stay in hostels and even at the church some nights.

There were times when she wasn’t so lucky.

Gromwaldt spent nearly six months riding subway trains while she didn’t have a home. She would ride the trains during the day to keep warm and return to her comforter and bedding near the church at night to sleep.

“I felt like I was safe and closer to God when I slept near the church,” Gromwaldt said. “I always tried to be ‘home’ by 6 p.m. I saw what I was doing as camping out. I knew that God would protect me.”

Photo courtesy of Crystal Wolfe
Photo courtesy of Crystal Wolfe

As part of their main ministry for 2017, CUMC wants to do more to help the homeless population of the city. To do this, the church has partnered up with Crystal Wolfe, founder of the nonprofit organization Catering for the Homeless, which delivers leftover food from catered events across the city to homeless shelters and churches.

After Wolfe delivered a sermon at the church earlier this year, she met with Gromwaldt, who told Wolfe of her story. Since that time Wolfe, and the church, have been doing everything to help Gromwaldt find permanent housing.

“Community Board 5 where I have been speaking up and out for the homeless since October of 2016, has been incredibly wonderful in regards to their support. They emailed me some information about crowdfunding fundraising and something clicked in my mind,” Wolfe said. “The church and I are determined to do whatever we can to help get Geri’s life back.”

Through her Catering for the Homeless organization Wolfe has set up a YouCaring.com page to help raise funds to get Gromwaldt back on her feet. As of Wednesday, Feb. 22, 52 donors have raised $2,867 of the $7,000 goal.

According to the donation page, with the money, they want to get Gromwaldt a studio or one-bedroom apartment in her home of Middle Village, be able to pay first month’s rent and a deposit — preferably three to six months’ rent so she can bolster her savings — and furniture for her new apartment.

“I have the utmost love and compassion for the homeless and I know it is not their fault and I believe that everyone deserves a safe and stable home; men, women, children, addicts, veterans, the poor, the elderly, everyone,” Wolfe said.