In December of 2020, Catholic Charities West Virginia Martinsburg Program Assistant Siobhán Bertone received a letter in the mail from an inmate at the Eastern Regional Jail (ERJ). “Ann,” who is nearly 70, had been incarcerated for 14 months, and her release date was quickly approaching. She had no family or friends nearby, nowhere to go, no winter clothes to wear, no ID, no money, and several serious medical issues.
Siobhán requested assistance from several Catholic Charities’ partners through the Eastern Panhandle Reentry Council, and they answered her call to help assist the new mutual client. Everyone signed consent forms, and the partners met with Ann, via Zoom, the following week. The meeting provided Ann with an opportunity to express what she would need upon release, and each partner agency agreed to take specific pieces. This included completing applications for Medicaid and Medicare, applying for a new social security card, and taking steps to obtain identification.
Siobhán helped with the social security card application and applied for a new birth certificate on Ann’s behalf, something Catholic Charities does and pays for on a regular basis. Siobhán also worked with the medical staff at ERJ to ensure that Ann would have a month’s supply of her needed medication and made a health care appointment for Ann. She worked with DHHR to secure Ann’s food stamps and to address issues with her Medicare.
The community responded to an appeal for clothes, food and other items, and Catholic Charities received numerous donations to help Ann. Catholic Charities also received Ann’s mail, as she had no other address.
Currently, Ann is staying in a hotel while the West Virginia Coalition for the Homeless finds housing that is more permanent for her. In the meantime, Siobhán continues to work with Ann to ensure that her basic needs are met.
“Catholic Charities has been a Godsend, and they’ve really helped me get on my feet and get things together,” said Ann. “Because on my own, I was going nowhere. They’ve given me direction, helped me get my food stamps, health care, insurance, medications, my check. If anyone has a chance to connect with them who needs help, please do.”
This story is about a community coming together to help one person. For our team at Catholic Charities, this work provides us with an opportunity to live the principles of Catholic Social Teaching while providing professional services to those who are so often unseen.
By Trina Bartlett, CCWVa Eastern Regional Director; and Siobhán Bertone, CCWVa Program Assistant