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.”

Looking Onward

Theresa’s face reflects the years of struggle she and her husband have endured, but still she looks onward. Faith sustains them.

“It gets frustrating. You get stressed out when money’s tight,” Theresa says. “There are times when we have nothing to eat, but you’ve got to have faith. All of this happened for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is, but it happened.”

She pauses briefly. “I pray to God every night just to give me the strength to deal with this. You have to have the faith. You have to believe.”