December 16th, 2015
Close your eyes. Picture a homeless person.
The image you’ll likely see is that of a man with matted hair, vacant eyes, and leathery skin. He’s probably wearing torn clothes, with an odor that hits you from a good distance away.
Now open your eyes and look at the photo above of Mary-Faith Cerasoli.
She’s a professionally dressed middle-aged woman with a careworn face, hair swept back prettily over her ears, plucked eyebrows, rouged lips, and manicured nails. She’s an adjunct professor who teaches Spanish and Italian at the Bronx and Manhattan campuses of Mercy College and Nassau Community College in Long Island. She has a life-threatening thyroid disease, and she’s homeless.
Since fall of 2010, when the 52-year-old started adjuncting, Cerasoli has had to rely on the kindness of friends to survive because her pay is so meager. Over the past six months she’s had to move four times. Her annual salary for teaching five courses per semester is around $22,000 before taxes. Because she has no health insurance, she goes to a specialty clinic in Manhattan, where she has racked up thousands of dollars in medical bills.