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Mary, a retired Registered Nurse, was discharged from the hospital with a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Mary’s cancer was quickly advancing and her doctors gave her an expected six months to live. Due to the severity of Mary’s diagnosis and a decline in her mobility, Mary was unable to return to her second story home which rendered her homeless and in need of support services.

Mary has always had a positive outlook related to her cancer diagnosis. As a nurse herself, she understood the steps she needed to establish a plan of treatment with her Oncologist, but did not have the housing support she needed to face her battle with cancer. Unsure of where to go, Mary was directed to Catholic Charities Samaritan Place Emergency Shelter (Samaritan Place). Samaritan Place provides transitional housing for the elderly and a safe and supportive place for people to stay on a short-term basis. It provides support when a person leaves his or her home because of abuse, exploitation, neglect, self-neglect, or when a financial crisis leads to a loss of housing, situations where the present home is unsafe or in need of major repair, or during any emergency that threatens a person’s safety.

Mary worked with a Samaritan Place Case Coordinator to establish resources such as Social Security Disability and arrangements for transportation.  Mary progressed into the transitional housing program which provided continuity of care through stable housing, support services and intensive case management. Mary’s determination and positive outlook were noticeable to the staff and residents of Samaritan Place. The staff noted that she has been a great support to other clients through her encouragement and advocacy. Mary became the Client Representative on the Catholic Charities of East Tennessee Advisory Board to advocate on behalf of the many clients served at Samaritan Place.

In addition to serving as a council representative, Mary expressed her excitement to share her experience at Samaritan Place and support the work of United Way.  Mary participated in  United Way of Greater Knoxville’s campaign and shared her story with local news networks. By sharing her story, the community learned that homelessness can impact everyone, including a professional RN who had worked her entire career caring for others.

Mary continues to live at Samaritan Place in the Permanent Supported Housing Program.  Recently, she received an encouraging report from her doctor.  She continues to actively fight the cancer; however, she does not allow the terminal diagnosis to define her. Mary looks at each day as a blessing and finds opportunities to be an advocate and friend to those around her.

United Way of Greater Knoxville supports programs like Catholic Charities’ Samaritan Place Emergency Shelter because we believe that Mary and all people deserve the opportunity to succeed. That is why the United Way of Greater Knoxville fights for the Health, Education, and Financial Stability of every person in our community. Change doesn’t happen alone. To live better, we must Live United.

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