Gladys Roman of Staten Island recalled the time she was stabbed nine times in the back, five times in the head and four times in each leg. Her attacker slashed her face and severed her thumb. Roman, 41, has suffered five miscarriages, had her nine-month-old daughter kidnapped for three months and has been homeless in the past.
Today, she and her husband, Hector, live with their five children in a two-bedroom apartment near the train. They, like the rising numbers of Staten Islanders, navigate the web of food pantries and soup kitchens on the island.
According to Hunger Safety Net 2007, a report produced by the Food Bank for New York City, almost 62,000 Staten Islanders eat at emergency food programs. Nine soup kitchens serve 4.8 million meals a year, lines for the 30 food pantries wind down church steps, and still, 70 percent of food pantries and soup kitchens run out of food.
Roman also opens her apartment up to a homeless man during the day when her kids leave for school. "I can't see nobody on the street," said Roman, who is pregnant with twins. In soup kitchens and food pantries she smiles and sweetly salutes just about anyone as "ma" and "papi."