For Mr. Hart, who is 23 and grew up in several foster homes around New York City, it has been a priority to maintain a consistent parental presence for his son, Zywun, who is nearly 2. “Growing up, I shared a lot of homes, shared a lot of pillows, shared a lot of moms,” Mr. Hart said.
Being a young parent has been a source of particular financial stress for Mr. Hart, who does gig work, including catering and delivery, when he finds it. In February, he received some assistance in the form of an Instacart order containing $279.57 worth of diapers, wipes, paper towels and juice for his family. At the time, Mr. Hart was living in Jersey City with Zywun’s mother. The order was placed with the help of Community Service Society, another beneficiary of The Neediest Cases Fund.
Two months later, Mr. Hart and Zywun’s mother split up. “At first, when I was a single father, first-time father, I was distraught because everything seemed so hard,” Mr. Hart said. “But as he kept smiling each time I kept making mistakes, it just kept making me feel better.”
In April, Mr. Hart and Zywun moved to a studio in a public housing complex in the Bronx where the rent is $400 a month — a great relief compared with the $1,750 Mr. Hart had been paying in New Jersey. In September, he began receiving $95 a month in SNAP benefits. Mr. Hart hopes to get a job in information technology that he can carry out remotely, so that he can stay at home with Zywun more.
Mr. Hart said it was important to stay positive, and not just for his own sake. “I’ve got somebody that’s looking at me,” he said.