National Women’s Health Week is May 9-15th, 2010. SAMHSA’s HRC and PATH are proud to collaborate to share the following article in honor of Women’s Health Week, a weeklong health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health.
This is the story of one human being interacting with another human being. It is a story of friendship, compassion, the small gift of time, understanding, and housing retention. Kate and Mary have known each other for eight years, first in the context of a nurse and a client, and later as women in dialogue. They know each other’s grandchildren, have tea together, talk on the phone and in person. They are gifts in each other’s lives.
Kate first met Mary when she was working as a nurse for Elders Living at Home in Boston. Elders Living at Home provides temporary and emergency shelter through the Pine Street Inn, the largest homeless service agency in Boston, for elders experiencing homelessness. Six years ago, Mary secured permanent housing, but Mary’s history as a person in recovery from homelessness, trauma, substance use, and mental illness prevents her from managing her own medications. Kate was responsible for filling Mary’s medication box and holding her medications as part of her job.
While Kate no longer works at Elders Living at Home, she continues to go to Mary’s house on a weekly basis to fill her medication box, as Mary is not connected to services that are funded to do this. Kate provides this service on her own time. Small conversations over the course of eight years have changed this relationship from one of service between a nurse and a client into two women finding hope in each other. This is a powerful human connection that helps support housing retention for Mary.
Mary and Kate are part of a circle of care that includes Mary’s primary care physician, the pharmacy, and routine weekly visits to fill Mary’s medication box. Kate and Mary’s primary care physician stay in touch about Mary’s medications. Kate orders medication from the pharmacy, and keeps the medication in her home until it is time to visit with Mary. Mary also receives supportive services from Boston’s Health Care for the Homeless and Barbara McInnis House, which provide medical respite care.
While PATH providers generally work with people for a short period of time before individuals transition to mainstream services, both providers and consumers have the potential for a profound and positive impact on one another’s lives. As Mary and Kate demonstrate, these relationships can be reciprocal and long lasting. When the women look at each other, Mary does not see Kate the service provider and Kate does not see Mary the client. Instead, they each see a dear friend.
Of Kate, Mary says, “Well, when I first came to Boston, I didn’t know too many people here. After I started in Pine Street, that is when I started knowing Kate. I was living in a shelter and I had a rough time in my life. Kate has been with me ever since, blood share and cry share. She’s been on my side. She really is the best person. The best person in my life right now is Kate. She helped me out of everything I have been into. She’s just a beautiful person. She has a good head on her shoulders, a beautiful smile, and it is like she just picked me up off my feet when I see her,” shares Mary.
“This would be Mary,” says Kate, as she insists that Mary is the hero of this story. “She is the survivor. She is the one who has an amazing resilience. She is a gift in my life.”
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