Editors Note: Saint Vincent de Paul (SVdP) volunteers refer to those they provide aid to as "friends," this may provide some context to the language in this story. SVdP works on behalf of Saint Bridget to provide aid and assistance to many who contact the parish looking for help. Your contributions to Saint Bridget go to supporting the work of SVdP. Volunteers are needed to help, to get involved or donate, contact Jeannie Grumblatt at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the parish office.
B is a 75-year-old single female. She doesn’t have any children or other close relatives; she was an only child. She has a companion cat named “Cute Thing”. B lives on a small fixed income, and walks with a walker. She first called Saint Vincent de Paul in October 2021 looking for a mattress and box spring. She had moved to Richmond from Fairfax a year earlier after she had been swindled out of her home there by some younger extended family members that her parents helped to raise. SVdP volunteers, Chris and JoLinda worked with her, and JoLinda was able to secure a mattress and box spring for her from a community resource.
B called Chris and JoLinda again because she was having problems finding housing. She was working with ACTS for financial assistance to secure housing but the Richmond office declined when they found out she was considering a place in Chesterfield Co. The Chesterfield Co. ACTs office assisted B with securing a room for rent in Chesterfield Co. but it was not a good situation. The landlord continually threatened tenants with eviction at the slightest provocation. In early January 2022, the landlord kicked B out of the home when she placed a lock on her room door, to have privacy and feel safe in the community living environment.
ACTs was unable to help B secure housing somewhere else because they had exhausted their funding. B used her income to pay for a hotel stay from January 5th- 9th, and a donor assisted with 2 additional days due to the frigid temperatures.
JoLinda assisted B with connecting to Homeless Services for shelter, RBHA for Mental Health support & documentation for an Emotional Support Animal, and Senior Connections for employment support. She entered the Non-Congregate Shelter, operated by Commonwealth Catholic Charities (CCC) at the Days Inn hotel on January 11th and stayed until March 30, 2022, when the program closed. She stayed in hotel stays and at times slept in her vehicle for the Month of April 2022. During this time, B expressed losing her faith and at times was fearful of dying while sleeping in her vehicle.
B applied to several income-based housing options, as well as employment opportunities with the support of her shelter case manager, Senior Connections and SVdP case workers.
In May 2022, the Commonwealth Catholic Charities Case Manager assisted B financially with securing a room for rent in Henrico. This was not a good situation for B as the landlord did not provide habitable living conditions, and a roomer threatened her with a gun. She maintained communication with Chris and JoLinda as to her housing status and concerns. Chris and JoLinda continued to listen, encourage, provide resources and pray with B She always expressed her gratitude for the time she was given to share her concerns and for the assistance she received.
B along with other occupants contacted Henrico Code Enforcement (in addition to CCC and Senior Connections) regarding the living conditions, and the home was found to be uninhabitable and illegal. The landlord took the tenants to court for non-payment of rent; B had an attorney through Legal Aid.
With advocacy from JoLinda and the Legal Aid attorney, along with the collaboration of Homeless Services, RRHA and Senior Connections, B received an Emergency Housing Voucher in July 2022. This voucher meant affordable housing opportunities for B, and her rent would be 30% of her income.
On August 15, 2022, B secured housing in an apartment community for Senior’s 55+ in Richmond City. She received assistance from Senior Connections and CCC with move in costs and utilities. SVdP assisted with September rent. Chris and his brother-in-law helped B move her bed and belongings from the rooming house into her new apartment on 8/17/22. She was very appreciative. JoLinda took her some furniture and food.
About a week after she moved, B called Chris asking for help to apply for jobs. They went to the library to work on this on the library’s computer. Then, on the Friday afternoon of Labor Day Weekend, she called Chris saying she was very sick, and asking if he could take her to the doctor. Since her new apartment is near downtown, Chris and his wife, Teesie, took her to the VCU Medical Center emergency room, where she was diagnosed with kidney stones and had to spend 2 nights before the doctors released her. That Sunday, they took B back to her apartment, and JoLinda visited her a few days later to bring household items.
Subsequently, St. Vincent de Paul helped her with financial assistance towards her rent. She now feels safe and is very thankful for all of our help.
This is an example of how we work with some of our SVdP friends. Some just need financial assistance, and we may have limited contact with them. Others, like B need much more support, and financial assistance is secondary. We pray with all of our friends, and try to walk with them in solidarity. We have been helping B for a year, and are very thankful to have been able to help her and get to know her.