Joseph Mungin, 45, an Army veteran, with his children. From left, Tischa, Tiffany, Devin, Joey, Mr. Mungin and Tina. Photo: Ruby Washington/The New York Times
By Kassie Bracken The New York Times
For about a year after moving into their new apartment, the Mungins did not have a single guest. Not because Joseph Mungin and his five children are unsociable. Quite the opposite.
Devin, 17; Tischa, 14; and Tiffany, 13, laugh often and complete one another’s sentences — though Tina, 11, occasionally interjects to remind them that, though the youngest, she is the boss. They all agree that the oldest, Joey, 18, who has moderate autism, is the most popular.
The Mungins have family meetings to resolve conflicts; cleanup Saturdays keep the apartment clutter-free. But not even their beloved grandmother was invited over. Not while they lacked living room furniture.
“I didn’t think the apartment was suitable,” explained Mr. Mungin (pronounced MUN’jin). “It’s like a statement: People come into your home, the first thing they see is the living room. If it doesn’t look right, what does that say about you?”
So until he could properly furnish the apartment, Mungin ground rule No. 4 was in effect: no visitors.
The children accepted this calmly, with a patience perfected through years of waiting. Among the things they have waited for: a home of their own, a kidney for their father and a mysteriously elusive mother.
Ten years ago, Mr. Mungin, now 45, was living in Giessen, Germany, where he was stationed before leaving the United States Army with an honorable discharge, when he learned that his kidneys were failing.
He talked with his wife, a German citizen, about moving to the United States for treatment. “She seemed for it,” he said.
Under the impression that families with children would receive priority housing through the Department of Veterans Affairs, he and the children left for the United States while Mrs. Mungin waited for her visa in Giessen.
Upon arriving in New York in 2001, Mr. Mungin learned that he had been mistaken about the housing policy. He and the children stayed with Mr. Mungin’s parents in their three-bedroom apartment in a public housing complex in Chelsea, but had to move when the landlord threatened them with occupancy code violations. Running out of money, and growing weaker with kidney disease, he, along with his children, became homeless, eventually moving into a shelter in East New York, Brooklyn, in 2004.
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