For 13 years, Betty Sherry has been making a difference in the lives of the families who reside at Sarah’s House. As lead caseworker, Betty manages a caseload of about eleven clients, supervises two interns, and trains new caseworkers and the Project Serve volunteer. Betty also arranges trainings and seminars for caseworkers, serves as a mentor to other caseworkers, and processes all checks and money orders from clients as well as deposits to their savings accounts.
“My job is busy but rewarding. I like helping families get back on their feet. It is my job to reassure them that they are safe here and I want to help them. I treat them as human beings and take their feelings into account regardless of the circumstances that brought them here. They are scared and I want them to know they can trust me and my only goal is to help them,” Betty says.
Mental health issues, addictions, and domestic abuse are three of the most common issues her clients are facing. At the initial case meeting, Betty helps them develop a plan to change their situations.
“We have twelve weeks to put them back together. That’s not much time to secure a job, childcare, and housing so we have to work fast and utilize as many resources as we can,” she says.
At Sarah’s House, guests receive assistance with finding employment, accessing benefits, addictions counseling, parenting classes, obtaining a vehicle and housing, and much more. Recently, Sarah’s House partnered with Anne Arundel Community College to provide a 9-week evening GED class for the clients. Betty serves as the liaison with the college coordinating the schedule and promoting the service to clients. They are also offering a computer literacy and career exploration class during the day.
“This is a wonderful service because it is very difficult to obtain employment without a GED, a situation many of our clients are in,” Betty says.
She also works closely with the visiting psychiatrist who sees patients that require medication. Twice a month she sits in on all the appointments, takes notes, and sends reports to the respective case workers.
“Betty instantly instills trust in the clients. She has such a steady, calming influence on them. She really is an outstanding case manager,” says Joyce Swanson, program director of client services who has worked with Betty for the past 12 years.
A few of the trends Betty has seen lately at the program are the increase in the number of children as well as an increase in the number of husbands and wives, as opposed to single mothers.
“Homelessness really does have a new face,” she says. Recalling a less than typical Sarah’s House client, Betty described a 66-year-old woman in a wheelchair who was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer and had no place to live.
We’re also seeing more seniors and single fathers,” says Betty.
“The staff does a great job here. We welcome each person who enters the program and we do everything we can to get them back on their feet,” she says proudly
In addition to working daily to help improve the lives of those living at Sarah’s House, Betty is pursuing an Associates Degree in Addictions Counseling at Howard Community College in Columbia.