Retired teacher’s crusade lands a home for former student’s family

Retired teacher’s crusade lands a home for former student’s family

Pat Arnow

The Kentish family sits down to dinner in their new home with Vivian Goodman.

For Geraldine Kentish and her two children, it's a dream come true: a real home at last, complete with shiny new appliances and a new bedroom for Kavon, her 2nd-grader who attends PS 36 in East Harlem. The family's long struggle to find a home began with Kavon, then at PS 203 in Brooklyn, told his kindergarten teacher Vivian Goodman that he wished for a better place for his mother to live. At the time, the family was crowded into a single room. Goodman, now retired, decided immediately, "If you can help someone, do it." And she did. Starting that day in 2011, she talked to anyone who would listen about finding permanent and suitable housing for this family even as tehy kept getting moved from one temporary site to another. Finally Goodman's son, aware of his mother's crusade, learned about El Barrio Operation Fight Back and the journey ended. When Kentish went to see the two-bedroom apartment, she tearfully told Goodman, "You have to walk in there with me. If it weren't for you, we wouldn't have this home." Kavon is settling into his new school, has joined the Cub Scouts and is enrolled in swimming clases at the YMCA. Also, the family has submitted an application for a program for his 27-year-old disabled sister, Ena. Looking back, Goodman observed, "You can't tell children to leave their baggage at the classroom door. They have to bring it in, and we have to deal with it. It's part of our job as teachers."

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