Howard helps nun save woman from squalor

THE BRONX — Sister Lauria Fitzgerald is doing God’s work. The Bronx nun is doing her best to help 66-year-old Maryann Cristiano keep going.

You must see Maryann’s apartment to believe it. It’s absolute squalor with dirt and debris all over. The phone doesn’t work and it’s not clear the smoke detectors do, either.

Maryann is in the hands of Selfhelp Community Services, a not-for-profit that acts as legal guardian for hundreds of New Yorkers. But Sister Lauria says Selfhelp isn’t doing its job and doesn’t seem to care about Maryann.

“The only thing I know about Selfhelp is they come once a month and had her cash. She cannot cook or clean or take care of herself.”

That does appear to be all Selfhelp is doing for Maryann: leaving her $350 a month and basically leaving her alone. Who knows what would have happened had Sister Lauria not gotten involved?

Here’s what Maryann had to say when Sister Lauria asked her to speak up about the situation.

“I have Adult Protective Services. Fourteen years I’ve been in this apartment. My brother died in ‘08. I have no family. They got me a terrible guardian, Selfhelp.”

Sister Lauria says Arch Care, part of the Archdiocese, has had a room for Maryann for a few weeks now. She’d like Archcare to become Maryann’s guardian. But she says the head of Selfhelp, John Davis, won’t respond to her calls.

This is crazy. A woman’s life is at stake. She can’t continue living the way she is. Find a way to save her. Transfer of the guardianship certainly sounds like a good idea.

Please, listen to Maryann’s plea, “We have to move out of here right away.”