Testimonials from Slocum House residents, past and present:
Over the past year, local immigrants and agricultural workers have taken shelter at Slocum House, reanimating Dorothy Day’s original vision of the Catholic worker. Here are some of their stories:
“I worked at a farm called Melrose in Auburn, NY. The housing conditions were really bad. For example, there were rats and cockroaches and the house was very cold. It had a heater, but all the heat would go up and on our floor it was cold. The water smelled bad and was cloudy.
In December, members of the Workers Center, from Syracuse, came to visit and I told them I wanted to fix the housing conditions because my children couldn’t sleep because of the cold and the cockroaches and rats. One day my two-year-old almost got electrocuted because one of the electrical outlets didn’t have a cover. At the same time, the wage I was making was eight dollars an hour, and I was told I had the right to receive at least minimum wage.
I talked to the owner’s daughter-in-law Jenny, who was in charge, to get them to pay me the minimum wage. I learned that what they were doing was wage theft. The owner was doing the same with my coworkers. The owner mistreated my son and told him bad words. Jenny told us we didn’t have a job anymore because they needed people who can work full time, which I couldn’t all the time because I had to breastfeed and take care of my children.
I asked the Workers’ Center for help because I became homeless and was desperate. I am now living at Slocum House with my children. We are safe and I know we will have a better future. I will recover my stolen wages and I want to help other workers to speak up for their rights. We need this house for safety and to help each other. We ask for some compassion and understanding. I have met so many good people here who come to help us and care about us. Thank you.”
“My name is Armino and I am an agricultural worker. I was unemployed for two months and went to live in Syracuse. I stayed at Slocum House for 15 days. The house helped me and other compañeros a lot. While I was there I went out with other farmworkers and organizers to dairy farms close to Syracuse to bring workers rights information and talk about organizing for better working and living conditions. If it weren’t for the house, I wouldn’t have had a place to sleep and organize.
We are asking the owner of the Slocum House to sell the house because it is very important for us agricultural workers. We can use the house as a sanctuary as it has been used in the past. We are not saying gift us the house, we are saying we can buy for ourselves, those who have the most need. Please think that we are all human beings and they have an opportunity to help us. Sell it at a fair price. Thank you.”
“I am Victoriano Hernandez and I am an agricultural worker who unfortunately suffered many accidents at work. I am originally from Guatemala and I have been in this country for 13 years. I have not been able to work for four years because of workplace accidents.
In September 2017, I needed a place to stay in Syracuse so I could go to my physical therapy appointments. I talked with the organizer of the WCCNY to see if they could help me to find a place and they told me there was a house called Slocum, and they were going to see if I could stay there while I got my physical therapy. They told me the owners of the house said they didn’t want anyone else coming to the house.
This was at a time when I needed housing the most and this is why I say it is so necessary to have a house in Syracuse that can welcome us. If you really value agricultural workers, and you know they bring food to your tables, then please do something so Slocum House is a house of sanctuary and hospitality like it was.Thank you.”
“I am an agricultural worker. I asked for help because I lost my job back in 2017. When you work at a farm, if you lose your job you also lose your housing.
I lived with my family at Slocum House in January 2017 for a few days. There are so many agricultural workers like me who need support. When we get injured or we become sick, we don’t have anywhere to go. Many farmers kick us out of the house and fire us, and having a safe place to stay temporarily is a blessing.
We have a lot of good people who support us, we are not alone and we can continue to provide a place for people like us to feel safe. Please help us to keep Slocum House open for immigrants and farmworkers.”
“My name is Arely. My husband Hector and I have three children. In December 21 2017, Hector was detained by ICE at the parking lot of the apartments where we live. ICE took him without any reason. He missed Christmas with us and New Year’s, and also he missed our son’s and my birthdays.
The separation affected us so much. After his father was taken, our son Jesus would lay his clothes out on the bed– a shirt, pants, and his rosary. He made sure his father’s clothes were on the bed and didn’t let anyone touch them or sleep in the bed. He would pray his father will come soon. He did this for the two months he was in jail.
Slocum House has helped us a lot. I remember staying there the first days after Hector was detained because I was afraid of staying at our house. Along with others from the Workers’ Center, we have made community there and helped each other. We spent New Year’s there. I have met farmworkers there who were victims of injustice. I have cooked meals and share the little we have with others there. This house is like a sanctuary for us.”
“My name is Juan and I am an agricultural worker. Slocum House has been very important for me. Last year in June, I lost my job and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I asked for help and got hospitality at Slocum, which helped me to support the organizations and other workers who have been victims of exploitation, injuries at work, retaliation, and wage theft.
Many farmworkers speak up against injustice and they lose their jobs. When they don’t have anywhere to go, the house is their only refuge. The house has a history of hospitality and activism. With the new Administration, immigrants are living a tough existence because of the racism and discrimination. There are very few places where we can go. Haven’t they learned about injustice in the Bible? Or the importance of hospitality, giving a place to the stranger? It is a biblical commandment to help others. They should not only talk about this, but live it and do it. This is why I am asking for your support to keep the house for hospitality for immigrants.”