Outreach Reaches Out to the Most Vulnerable
Andre used to live in an unkempt apartment with huge holes in the walls, always worried about when the next burglary would occur. Nights particularly frightened the blind man in his fifties not only because he had no one to turn to for help if needed, but also because he heard the disturbing sounds of rats scurrying through his Bridgeport apartment.
A former food prep cook who had been laid off, he had no insurance, and never saw a doctor. As a result, he landed in the hospital totally blind and was finally diagnosed with diabetes.
After the Visiting Nurse Service referred him to St. Vincent’s Outreach Services for assistance, the Outreach staff performed an evaluation on his complete medical and social history. The information gathered revealed that in addition to medical issues, Andre faced other major challenges including the lack of any support system, and a terrible living situation that rendered him a frequent victim of robbery.
“When Andre was turned over to our care, we found a man basically sitting alone in darkness in a swelteringly hot, squalid apartment with no social contacts and only the radio for company,” says St. Vincent’s Outreach social worker Betty Skaggs, MSW, who worked on Andre’s case. ”Although the apartment deserved to be condemned, Andre was afraid of the landlord who threatened eviction because he owed back rent and he wouldn’t complain.”
Skaggs won Andre’s trust through what she calls the “little victory” of getting his gas turned back on, and from there the social worker enlisted the help of two attorneys to obtain disability payments and services for him. She also found safer, cleaner, housing at a local housing facility.
She secured Meals on Wheels, and food stamps to meet his needs, and also connected him to the Federation of the Blind, whose trained staff acclimated him to the layout of the new apartment.
“Andre now lives in a nice, new, freshly painted apartment and always has a smile on his face,” says Skaggs. With the help of the Federation of the Blind, he learned to navigate with the use of a cane, and now even has visitors.
With the help of the St. Vincent’s Outreach van driver Ramon “Ray” Martinez, Andre has regular medical appointments at both St. Vincent’s Family Health Center and at St. Vincent’s Neighborhood Health Center, where he sees his doctor and friend, Pamela Hoffman, MD, and the nursing staff. This combination is keeping him out of the hospital with his medical issues controlled. He also runs all living issues by Skaggs because of the trust that has developed between the two.
“Andre has a dignity now that he didn’t have before,” says Skaggs. “He is like a different person , and is always thankful and grateful.”
As a result of the St. Vincent’s Outreach team assisting with his medical and social problems, Andre currently lives more independently in a safer environment with access to services that help him tremendously in his daily living.
As Andre himself says, ”It was hell before, but now I am in my glory.”