published Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Saving Mary Cody: One woman's efforts change everything for homeless woman

Mary Cody laughs with Nancy Rus after Rus fixed her hair in her Holiday Inn Express hotel room. Rus has been helping Cody, whom she found homeless and ill in Chattanooga.
Mary Cody laughs with Nancy Rus after Rus fixed her hair in her Holiday Inn Express hotel room. Rus has been helping Cody, whom she found homeless and ill in Chattanooga.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

When Nancy Rus first saw Mary Cody, the woman was slumped, face down on a Market Street park bench.

Her arms hung limp, and a filthy, stainless steel walker stood beside her. Plastic bags, stuffed with urine-soaked clothing and blankets, bulged on the sidewalk.

People walked past. But Nancy thought the woman might be somebody's mother.

So the 64-year-old former Chicago organizational psychologist who retired in Chattanooga paused and started talking to the stringy-haired woman who called herself Mary.

"I couldn't just walk on by," Nancy said.

The woman was 54 and alone and called herself "a walking miracle, saved by Jesus Christ." She said she'd had her head "cracked open" and become partially paralyzed as a child when her father threw her against a wall. She'd been evicted months ago from Patten Towers, apartments for the disabled and poor on the corner of Market and 11th streets downtown. She was barred from the restaurants nearby. Even the Community Kitchen didn't want her.

Mary slept on the low window ledge of the Christian Science Building most Chattanoogans know as the Pickle Barrel building.

On the street, she said, she had been robbed and raped.

Nancy had wondered if the woman had Alzheimer's, but she soon realized Mary was probably mentally retarded.

Mary had been turned away from nearly every social service help system Chattanooga has to offer.

They wrote her off as someone who couldn't be helped.

"People would tell me, 'Oh, everybody knows Mary,'" Nancy said. "They would tell me, 'She's a drunk. Or she goes off. Or she wants to live on the streets.'"

But Nancy kept going back to talk and listen to Mary, and she would eventually find there was truth to most of what Mary said.

"This is America. We treat dogs better than this," Nancy said.

  • photo
    Mary Cody looks at photos with sisters Marlene Kondolojy, center, and Diane Ginsberg Friday at Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute. Cody was placed in the facility for evaluation after an emotional breakdown. The sisters had not known where Cody was since 1989.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

Americans spent about $2.9 billion on more than 20 federal programs to target homelessness in 2009. Nearly $20 million of that went to Tennessee, and more than $700,000 went to Chattanooga.

Here, people are encouraged to help the homeless in a hands-off way.

Downtowners, for a time, were asked to toss coins into an "art of change" meter and let United Way disperse the money to the needy.

Street preachers have been encouraged to take their sandwiches and sermons to the homeless only at the Farmers Market near the Community Kitchen.

City officials say money breeds panhandling.

So it's little wonder that while everybody knows Mary, few have really looked at her, much less the whole of her medical and mental history, even while she has been in and out of social service agencies and hospitals in Chattanooga for nearly 20 years.

Nancy would spend thousands of dollars of her own money and nearly every waking hour of her life for more than two months trying to untangle Mary's mysteries.

On that July evening when she first met Mary, all Nancy knew was that she couldn't just walk away.

"That could be me in a few years," she said.

"The truth is, I did this for me. I did it to save myself."

  • photo
    Mary Cody stands on the sidewalk near the Pickle Barrel before going in to eat with Nancy Rus.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

Not long after meeting Mary that Friday night, Nancy returned to the spot. She watched Mary and waited day after day.

Eventually, Nancy gave her money and took her food, asked if there was anything else she needed.

"I don't need nobody," Mary would say. "I'm God's walking miracle."

Finally Nancy gained a modicum of Mary's trust -- enough to get her in the car for a trip to the Chattanooga Crisis Center.

Nancy left her there, thinking she had done her good deed, but within a few hours, crisis center officials called to tell Nancy they were sending Mary to Erlanger hospital. She couldn't stay in a room at the crisis center because she was incontinent and on a walker -- too much liability, Nancy was told.

Nancy then assumed Erlanger would take responsibility for her.

But Erlanger called her at 4 a.m. to come pick Mary up.

"Pick her up?" Nancy replied. "What am I supposed to do with her? I'm not going to take her back to the street."

There was nothing they could do for her, they said.

Health records across the city said Mary had a "history of alcoholism," but alcohol was not found in blood tests. To test Mary, Nancy asked her if she wanted a drink, but the answer was always no.

So Nancy refused to put Mary back out on the street. The hospital finally agreed to get her a taxi to the Community Kitchen.

That afternoon when Nancy went there to check on Mary, workers said they hadn't seen her. In fact, they told her, Mary was banned from the kitchen.

When Nancy finally found Mary, she was again sitting on a bench on Market Street.

  • photo
    Mary Cody, left, and Nancy Rus, center, talk with Mary Simons at the the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition to see if they can get some assistance for Cody.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

Mary has frequent seizures. She lost much of the use of her left hand and can barely raise her left arm. When she walks, she has the unsteady gait of someone with a limb several inches shorter than the other.

She can't speak clearly, and is blind in one eye.

Her IQ is 51. She has the reading ability of a third-grader, but the comprehension of a second-grader. Like a preschooler, she sometimes is irrationally irritated. She can be easily manipulated and confused.

Mary spent her childhood poor in rural Vermont, one of 11 children.

When she was 16 months old, her father threw her on the floor, according to records from Vermont State Hospital.

The fall left her partially paralyzed on one side. At 12, she started having convulsions.

"[My family] said I only had half a brain," she told Nancy.

Later, her father was convicted of molesting Mary and her sister, Elaine, who also was mentally disabled.

In the following years, Mary and Elaine were moved among asylums, juvenile homes and institutions.

But in 1989, Elaine got out of an institution and checked Mary out of the facility she was in. What was supposed to be an outing turned into a disappearance.

Elaine later told the family she put Mary out of her car on the street. The family never heard from Mary again and didn't know how she ended up in Chattanooga. They didn't even know if she was alive.

The social service agencies here knew none of that history. What bits and pieces of it Mary remembered and told them were largely discounted.

Now Mary is always afraid.

"People come by and rob me all the time," Mary said.

  • photo
    Mary Cody loves to draw, and draws many pictures for Nancy Rus. Cody recites a long list of items that she can draw.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

Nancy was once a high school dropout who later obtained double degrees and a doctorate.

In Chicago, she had worked as an executive at Motorola and managed her own consulting firm. She retired early to nurse a body wracked by fibromyalgia, chronic pain and fatigue.

For much of her life, she was a woman consumed with setting and meeting goals. In 1987, prepping for a National Network of Women in Sales seminar, she told a Chicago Tribune reporter that "passion is more than just wanting something. It's the compulsion, the obsession to achieve your goal despite roadblocks or objections."

She pictured a goal to help Mary and then became a woman obsessed.

She checked the homeless woman into the Downtown Days Inn. She bought her clothes. She took her out to eat.

She took her to a doctor who prescribed seizure medication. She took Mary to a foot doctor, who treated her infected toes and toenails. She got Mary a haircut and a manicure.

With the attention, Mary did seem different. She began to wipe her mouth, and to say please and thank you. She grew rested and healthy and steady enough on her feet again to put aside her walker and hobble like a toddler.

Mary would hum Dolly Parton songs and listen to gospel music on the MP3 player Nancy gave her. She drew and colored pictures for Nancy. On them she scribbled "my soul sister."

In early August, Mary wore a new black dress to a concert downtown. She wore a rhinestone necklace Nancy had given her and had newly painted polka-dot fingernails.

"I'm a movie star," Mary said.

  • photo
    Marlene Kondolojy touches Mary Cody's face as Diane Ginsberg, left, and Nancy Rus, right, look on Friday at Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute. The sisters tell Mary that they have looked for her for years and will never lose her again.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

Throughout the weeks while Mary was safe in a hotel room, Nancy began gathering Mary's medical records and piecing together her history. She paged through records from hospitals, clinics, state agencies, mental health centers and police departments.

Local police records show Mary has been attacked and robbed. They also show she has been arrested five times for disorderly conduct. Privately some officers say some of those arrests were efforts to get her into a warm jail cell during a bitter cold spell or after a beating or fall.

Patten Towers attorney Jeffrey Schaarschmidt filed court papers to evict Mary on Aug. 31, 2010. He said the eviction took place because Mary spat in the face of Chris Mack, the Towers' manager, and several days later she threw hot coffee into her face.

"The property manager [Mack] felt for Mary, but you still can't take that style of abuse. We're an apartment complex, we're not a nursing home. We're not a mental facility," Schaarschmidt said.

The eviction papers filed in Hamilton County Sessions Court, however, state the reason for eviction was nonpayment of rent for one month: the August rent of $192.

But Mary's rent was paid every month on time by the Southeast Tennessee Human Resources Agency, which had been handling her money since at least 2008 because she had been deemed mentally retarded.

Patten Towers also made a $5,000 fire damages claim against Mary after her apartment was gutted by fire even though firefighters said there was no human factor involved. Mary's Social Security income is still paying the damages.

From February until July, Mary had no money and no way to access her Social Security disability money.

Southeast Tennessee Human Resources Agency sent a portion of her Social Security money to the Community Kitchen. But because Mary had been banned from the kitchen, its workers never cashed the checks.

Mary never got the money.

After they met, Nancy gave Mary some money. One day this summer, Nancy watched as Mary sat in Miller Park and pulled bills from her purse, tried to count them, and put them back. Over and over.

Nancy glanced at the people in the crowded park and bus stop.

"She's just prey," Nancy said quietly.

  • photo
    Nancy Rus, right, cuts meat for Mary Cody as they eat lunch at the Pickle Barrel. Pickle Barrel employees were kind to Cody when she was living on the street near the business.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

Nancy's biggest frustration came from fighting with social service agencies about whether Mary should be diagnosed as psychotic or mentally retarded.

A proper diagnosis is crucial to what long-term services would be available for her.

It could determine whether Mary would remain on the street, be institutionalized or be placed in a group home with people like her.

Nancy's observation of Mary over many weeks told her Mary had a temper and post traumatic stress from mistreatment and street living, not a psychosis. And she was convinced Mary's primary problem was retardation.

As Nancy researched Mary's medical and social services records, she also researched long-term care programs.

Nancy thought a group home for mentally disabled adults with 24-hour care would be the best option for Mary. But to get Mary into the program she wanted, she would have to prove Mary was mentally disabled before she was 18.

An evaluator at the TEAM center said her IQ was 51 but that her story about early brain damage would have to be verified.

Nancy already had been on the trail of records in Vermont after finding Mary's birth certificate.

She thought she had what she needed with the Vermont State Hospital report of Mary's brain damage at 16 months.

But in August, Tennessee denied Mary's application to the program.

In a matter of days, TennCare also denied Mary admittance to another group-home program for people with physical disabilities.

Not long after finding the doors closed, Nancy burst into tears while driving Mary to the hotel. The effect on Mary was strong.

"I'm not fit to live. I'm a burden to everyone. I'm going to jump out of the car and let a truck run over my head," Mary screamed.

Had Nancy's friend Paul Hall not been in the back seat, Mary might have succeeded.

Hours of tears later, five police officers cajoled Mary into the back seat of a squad car for a ride to Erlanger and a mental evaluation at Moccasin Bend Mental Hospital.

Nancy lowered her head.

"I let her down," she sobbed.

  • photo
    Mary Cody matches pictures to words while taking tests in the Team Centers, Inc. offices to determine her comprehension levels. Depending on the results of the tests, she might be eligible for assistance.
    Photo by Angela Lewis /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

This was Mary's fifth visit to Moccasin Bend.

None of the previous visits lasted longer than four days. Just long enough for a couple of conversations with a specialist.

Most visits to Erlanger and the Homeless Health Care Clinic lasted barely 30 minutes.

None of them homed in on mental retardation. There just wasn't time to explore.

But for this trip to Moccasin Bend, Mary had Nancy.

Nancy was quick to point out that by law, Moccasin Bend cannot release a patient to homelessness.

Mary had been in Moccasin Bend for five weeks, and Nancy kept searching for answers.

Then, a break came.

Nancy found a 1974 Northern Virginia Mental Health Hospital record diagnosing Mary, then 17, as having "retardation." Other diagnoses included epilepsy and explosive personality disorder.

In more Virginia records, Nancy found a description of Mary's stepfather that ultimately allowed Nancy to track him down.

The discoveries came just in time to help her meet the deadline for filing appeals to fight the state's program denials.

  • photo
    Mary Cody holds her arms out to show off her outfit to Nancy Rus. Rus took Cody shopping at All Things Groovy, where she picked out several retro items.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

Robert Rosen, a former attorney for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and presently part of Rosen & Associates, is living in Los Angeles.

"When [Nancy] told me the story, I was in tears," said Rosen, Mary's stepfather. "We're grateful she's alive. And it's unbelievable that someone [Nancy] would take that on."

Rosen helped Mary's mother write a letter appealing to the programs for help.

Theresa Rosen's letter said when Mary's father threw her to the floor it triggered mental retardation, epilepsy, seizures and paralysis of her left side.

"[Mary] never was the same after that," her mother wrote. "She was a slow learner. She was picked on at schools by the other children."

Mary's mother said her daughter could not feed herself, bathe herself or manage her money.

She had terrible mood swings and threatened others.

Her mother said many psychiatrists and psychologists diagnosed Mary as mentally retarded.

Her letter said Mary gave birth to three baby boys before she disappeared. All of them were adopted.

Mary also had a daughter in Chattanooga in 1993. The child was taken by the state.

Last week, Rosen and Nancy made a plan for two of Mary's sisters to visit her.

They hadn't seen her in 22 years.

  • photo
    Nancy Rus looks through stacks of files about Mary Cody that she has gathered to piece Cody's history together. Almost all of her time has been spent visiting various agencies to find out Cody's history and get assistance for her.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

From the first day Nancy saw Mary and resolved to do something, she was asked over and over: Why are you doing this? What do you want out of this?

Her answer was always the same.

"I just want a happy ending."

She told people she'd always seen herself as a "change agent."

The truth is, when Nancy realized how much work it would take to save Mary, she worried she wouldn't be able to do it.

She wondered if, with her illness, she would have the physical stamina to fight for Mary.

But last week, Nancy got her happy ending.

With the Rosens' help, Nancy won approval for Mary to get into the program that will place her in a group home.

On Friday, Mary's sisters -- Diane Ginsberg, of Las Vegas, and Marlene Kondolojy, of Woodridge, Va. -- stood with Nancy at Moccasin Bend.

"I'm so nervous I'm shaking," said Kondolojy.

Nancy already had prepped Mary with messages from the sisters, as well as some pictures Rosen emailed of them and their mother during a beach vacation.

Nancy told the sisters how to read Mary's quirky looks and expressions. Kondolojy wiped away a tear.

"I should be telling you these things," she told Nancy.

An attendant wheeled Mary into the room. Mary's sisters swarmed her, and the three dissolved into tears and hugs.

"We've looked for you everywhere," Ginsberg told Mary, who was sobbing.

"We're never going to lose you again," Kondolojy said.

Ginsberg and Kondolojy pulled brand new hats, hippie clothes and jewelry from a suitcase and layered it on Mary.

Nancy sat quietly in the back of the room and watched.

The sisters showed Mary a recent picture of their mother.

A smile spread over Mary's face.

"She looks like me, doesn't she?" Mary asked. The sisters agreed.

Nancy's eyebrows peaked and her smile broadened.

"I said I wanted a happy ending, but I never dreamed it would be like this," she said. "I didn't think I still had it in me."

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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AlmostAmanda said...

What an amazing story. There is a special place in heaven for people like Nancy. Bless them both.

September 18, 2011 at 12:29 a.m.
berg333 said...

Nice story, I am sure a lot of case workers for the "dysfunctional government services" would love to have one case to focus on and spend thousands of their own dollars to get each individual help , most are dealing with a lot of Marilyn Cody's not just one and with family members not willing or able to assist and little resources they do what they can, for many agencies its like fighting a fire with a garden hose.

September 18, 2011 at 8:20 a.m.
heavensfire said...

I know Ms Cody personally and I can say she is a wonderful human being and she has the heart of an angel. Although she came into my life rather recently, I will remember her the rest of my own life. Her past story is rather "telling" of the condition of mankind, which is empty and uncaring. Had she not met Ms Rus and her other friends, I often wonder just where Marilyn would be today. The mental health services and workers in our nation are an overlooked asset.

Mental health, just like physical health, is a very important part of everyone's general welfare, however, mental health carries a certain negative stigma, simply because the public has a misunderstanding concerning the illnesses which are associated within.

Our mental health patients, which include many homeless individuals, simply because of lack of resources, deserve the very best care available. I am so very glad to be able to help those people, many with stories just like Marilyn Cody's, who have been tossed too and fro and are mostly unwanted by society.

Good mental health is good health, PERIOD.

Thank God there are those who understand mental health patients are normal people,who's mind may be simply going through extraordinary circumstances. It is our duty to care for them and give the very best in everything we do, to allow therapy and time to heal their illness.

Nancy, Great Job!

September 18, 2011 at 8:38 a.m.
jesgoofin said...

I was so moved by this story. Nancy's heartfelt kindness is inspiring. Our agencies fall short in so many ways. As is so often the case, Mary could only be helped by the selfless dedication of one heart. Perhaps this is God's way of challenging each of us to rise to the standard Nancy demonstrated.

September 18, 2011 at 8:47 a.m.
hmgreen said...

This story had me in tears. God Bless Ms. Rus for taking a chance on another human being and not giving up. Mary had such a traumatic life stemming from abuse as a baby. She truly is a walking miracle. On the flip side, I think Patten Towers should be investigated, the city needs to stop being blind. I was homeless for a mere week trying to escape abuse with my daughter and at the time the woman's shelters were full to capacity. I had no where to go. I think the common misconception is that there is help and funding available and there just isn't. There are soooo many programs but those programs have no resources or man power to take the time on each case. And I do agree with the other poster... The city spending $1.2 million a year on McKamey Center for animals is insane. It is a sad day when the life of a human is not worth near as much as the life of an animal.

September 18, 2011 at 9:45 a.m.
Veritas said...

Excellent story!

September 18, 2011 at 10:01 a.m.
trucker1955 said...

thank god for people like nancy. shame on the city and everybody else,the, and the list could go on forever.without people like nancy mary might be dead now. but now she has a new lease on life, and her family back.GOD BLESS YOU NANCY. THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO HELP HER.

September 18, 2011 at 10:38 a.m.
onetinsoldier said...

hmgreen, maybe you weren't aware that this kind and wonderful person Nancy Rus is a Board member of the Humane Society and probably wouldn't agree with you. The real problem is that society has crumbled under the greed of some. Mary Cody, a damaged HUMAN BEING was left to die on the street by all of us except one. I see a parade of Mary Codys everyday with shopping carts and wagons full of their few possessions. In Rossville we have a young black man maybe 35 or so that is mentally damaged and hangs around the Rossville post office area and has been around for about 4 years sleeping here and there and wandering around. He is incapable of caring for himself and is more damaged than Mary. He is also barred from many businesses and his plight is heart breaking. I, when able, have bought him lunches at BiLo but you and I aren't the answer. Nancy Rus had the resources to step in and help. She is the exception, most with wealth can't be bothered and care more about tax breaks than human beings. Take a moment to joy in Nancy Rus and then take an hour to think about the thousands living like Mary Cody. Like it or not conservatives, we are all responsible for each other and this Nation is for all and not just some.

September 18, 2011 at 11:29 a.m.
brokentoe said...

And to think, many of the above posters singing the praise of Ms. Russ are the same ones who complain most often against the homeless and even turned against the mayor because they wanted him to round up all the homeless and dump them at the state line. tsk! tsk! A bunch of phony hypocrits.

September 18, 2011 at 11:39 a.m.
onetinsoldier said...

There used to be a safety net for people like Mary until Regan destroyed the mental health system 31 years ago. Now people like Mary are left to die on the street or housed in a prison. Take responsibilty Chattanooga, you keep voting for the idiots that have brought us this degradation in society. You don't have to go to the ends Nancy Rus did to help people like Mary. You just have to be willing to quit supporting this conservative rich mans agenda that permeates the right wing. We are only as good as the least among us.

September 18, 2011 at 12:56 p.m.
Justreading said...


September 18, 2011 at 1:08 p.m.
brokentoe said...

payingattention, the people from the suburbs moving back into the city fought tooth and nail the mayor's efforts for the homeless. The same ones want Patten Towers closed, but they don't say where those poor individuals will likely end up, and they've outright stated they don't care!

September 18, 2011 at 1:25 p.m.
harrystatel said...

If the churches of Hamilton County would do their proclaimed "Christian Duty"; if another "Six Flags Over Jesus" church, emporium and coffee house could do without another jumbo-tron and inside basketball court; if churches declared that helping their neighbor was as important as the preacher's big car, toupees, and pinky rings; if churches placed the emphasis on taking care of their "own" rather than "Tours to the Holy Land" complete with deluxe accommodations and a plastic baby Jesus complete with Three wise-men in 18kt gold, "Last Supper" dinner plates and glow-in-the-dark praying hands; if preachers would say, "Help the homeless" instead of selling Crystal Cathedrals, high-dollar prayer cloths and holy water from the tap for mega-bucks so the preacher can wear a Rolex and live a rich lifestyle, and be on television preaching the "prosperity gospel" (as long as they're the ones prospering).

But then, that's not going to happen.

Ben Franklin said, "Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."

Old Ben was right again.

September 18, 2011 at 1:53 p.m.
onetinsoldier said...

This woman deserves more than an article in the Times Free Press. She should be nominated for the next Red Cross Hometown Hero or CNNs heroes. These are the people we need to celebrate.

September 18, 2011 at 2:16 p.m.
chas9 said...

Back in July, I helped frail, halting Mary cross a wide intersection, asked where she slept, and left her with a few dollars to get something to eat. I knew she needed more help, and I thank Nancy Rus for that help. And thanks to Pam for telling the story. Yes, paying attention, the land deal was and is sad. Harry, you'll find no gold or crystal at my little church, which gave groceries and listening ears to 46 needy families yesterday. This Saturday, we'll feed breakfast to about 250 at the Community Kitchen.

September 18, 2011 at 3:19 p.m.
harrystatel said...

"Harry, you'll find no gold or crystal at my little church, which gave groceries and listening ears to 46 needy families yesterday."

Thanks for your small church. Often, the smaller the church, the larger the heart.

September 18, 2011 at 3:40 p.m.
Catoosareader said...

How do we nominate Pam Sohn for a Pulitzer Prize for this investigative assignment? Nobody deserves the prize more!!!

September 18, 2011 at 3:47 p.m.
ooltewahvol said...

Could we at least enjoy one "feel good" story without some liberal idiot like tinsoldier making a political issue out of it?

Ronald Reagan has not been in office for 23 years. Furthermore even if he did destroy all Mental Health facilites your beloved Democrats could have re-instated them in either 93-95 or 2009-2011 when they controlled all three(White House, Senate and House)legislative and executive branches of government.

And one other thing tinsoldier, I am a Conservative and will be happy to compare my IQ to yours any day, Loser.

September 18, 2011 at 6:30 p.m.
7Seventeen said...

your beloved Democrats could have re-instated them in either 93-95 or 2009-2011 when they controlled all three(White House, Senate and House)legislative and executive branches of government.

Good job on blaming somebody else for not fixing another conservative mess. Do you know how many threats of filibuster and votes of cloture have been brought by Republicans in Congress since 2008?

I am a Conservative and will be happy to compare my IQ to yours any day, Loser.

Name calling is very immature and makes it easy to dismiss whatever you have to say.

September 18, 2011 at 6:59 p.m.
NoMyth said...

This is the best story that I have ever read in the TFP. I hope that the TFP will keep it on its homepage for at least a week or more. We all have an obligation to help anyone that is mentally or physically unable to care for themselves. At least one-third of homeless people are in their situation because that are physically and mentally incapable of getting by without a parent, a big brother, a big sister, or a strong community to give them the support that they need. Instead of huge government programs, our communities should fund a few warm-hearted psychologists to walk the streets, engage with homeless people, and evaluate and identify those that really, really need some long-term TLC. There are many others like Mary that die alone in the street because no one cares. Please don't read this story and not act on it. This is your chance to be like Nancy. To make a real difference in the world.

September 18, 2011 at 8:03 p.m.
tekcorman47 said...

Still, why haven't the democrats fixed such a monumental problem, when there was ample opportunity, one that affects so many like the person in this story. This is a superb report by CTFP of how people who truly care react, specifically Ms Rus, to such incredible need and don't give up. And it also seems true that too many other people like you 7seventeen, and yes myself, perhaps talk about others not doing something and politicize the situation while doing nothing but attacking an imaginary adversary we don't truly know with the counter blame game. Thank God for Ms. Rus and the uplifting, inspiring and convicting reporting of Ms. Sohn.

September 18, 2011 at 11:11 p.m.
tekcorman47 said...

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)

“Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind.”

September 18, 2011 at 11:24 p.m.
makearipple said...

I have watched this story unfold, and am deeply moved by Nancy's commitment and Mary's growing hope and trust. As a result, I'm looking more at what I can [and WILL]do to make someone's life better each day. While it may seem easier to focus on what some organization, government program, church group, or someone instead of us should or shouldn't do, my experience has been if we start from that place of judgement, we make excuses to avoid accountability. For me, I keep asking myself..."if we were all Nancy Rus, what kind of world would it be for all the Marys in this world?" Something to think about. What can YOU do to make a ripple in the world today?

September 19, 2011 at 11:10 a.m.
UjokinRIGHTQ said...

If Chattanooga is such a kind hearted city, then why, like so many other cities around the nation, did they utilitze the services of law enforcement several years ago to run the homeless from downtown to make way for the city's elite? Even if it meant beating them up to force them out? Then they turned on the present mayor because he refused to go along with the plan to rid the city of its homeless population by having the police to round'em up and dump'em at the stateline. Those are not my words, but the words used by some of the city's elite.

September 19, 2011 at 1:20 p.m.
ooltewahvol said...

Well 7-17 you may want to explain to your fellow liberal bedwettter tinsoldier that the entire 8 years Reagan was in office the Dems controlled the House under the leadership of that "conservative" from Massachusetts Tip O'Neill. So anything Reagan passed was signed off on by Tip and his fellow Democrats in the House.

September 19, 2011 at 2:11 p.m.
forest said...

What an amazing story! What an amazing woman and human being is Nancy Rus! She is an angel and a saint. May God bless her.

September 20, 2011 at 12:16 a.m.
quietreader said...

I love this story. Makes me wonder what I can do beside give money to an organization that turned her away and banned her from their establishment. I don't get it. Does the community kitchen only help people that they think will eventually be able to help themselves? I've supported the community kitchen for years but this report really makes me think I should put my money to better use. Thanks Nancy for being a shining light to us all and thanks to Pam Sohn for this wonderful report. And to those of you that think this is a political problem, shame on you. We're all to blame whether liberal or conservative.

September 21, 2011 at 8:23 a.m.

Quietreader, your comment in particular holds great weight. We, at the Community Kitchen, are very grateful that Mary was able to find help. In fact, after two decades of working with her, it was more than clear that existing programs and services were not equipped to meet her needs. There's no question about that.

And, from that point of view, this article is a very important one. Unfortunately, several of its assertions are untrue. In particular, Mary was never "banned" from the Community Kitchen. In fact, over the years, Kitchen case managers have secured housing for her twice and even arranged for SETHRA to serve as her payee. These events, along with many others, required countless man hours and ongoing advocacy – services have not been denied.

Second, the Community Kitchen does not receive or cash checks for anyone seeking or receiving services; in fact, doing so would be against policy – instead, case managers will seek to find a responsible party to act as a payee for clients that need help managing their disability checks. As in Mary’s case, SETHRA is often the organization that acts as payee. To be clear, Kitchen employees never received or accepted dollars for Mary or from her check – instead, this would be a responsibility of the payee.

These are just two of the assertions that were not checked against fact. There are others.

Still, Mary’s story is remarkable; and we are grateful that it has been shared. But, it is not the only important story to share – each day, hundreds of our neighbors experience homelessness. It is true that not all of their stories end in success. But most of them do – thanks to the many agencies and folks that work hard each day to make a real difference.

Having served over 180,000 meals last year and helped thousands of our most vulnerable neighbors secure the services they need, we are ever grateful for each successful escape from the condition of homelessness. And, as in Mary’s case, we are always aware that each situation is unique, and requires a strong, supportive community. We’re grateful to be a part of that community – and thankful for its support.

September 21, 2011 at 11:25 a.m.
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