STEUBENVILLE - Beth Rupert-Warren first noticed the woman getting out of her pop-up camper on South Fifth Street on a cool fall evening.
"I was working for Jefferson Behavioral Health as an outreach case worker and I saw this young woman leaving her little camper. She looked a little lost and out of place so I stopped to see if she needed help," recalled Rupert-Warren.
Concetta Mottle politely turned down that initial offer of help but several weeks later when Rupert-Warren stopped again, Mottle was ready to ask for assistance.
SHARING A MOMENT — Beth Rupert-Warren, left, executive director of the United Way of Jefferson County, shared a personal moment with Concetta Mottle of Steubenville. Rupert-Warren first met Mottle when the Montana native was living in a trailer on South Fifth Street in Steubenville 11 years ago. -- Staff photo
"I came here from Montana. My ex-husband was living here with our daughter and he told me I could see our daughter if I got clean. So I knew I had to get to Steubenville and I knew needed help cleaning up my life. I was addicted to meth. In Montana, meth was as available as water. It was everywhere. I was suffering from depression so I thought I would just use meth once and everything would be OK. I was struggling with my addiction so I did the hard thing and sent my daughter to live with her father in Steubenville and that made me even more depressed," Mottle said.
"I had a friend give me a ride and tow my little 6-by-4-foot trailer here. He dropped me off on South Fifth Street because I didn't know where to go here. All I knew at that point was I wanted to get clean and find a place to live. But I didn't know where to start," recalled Mottle.
So the 23-year-old woman would walk the downtown streets, "looking for a safe place to use a restroom, trying to find some food because I had no way of cooking anything in the trailer and trying to avoid the lure of available drugs."
"The first time I met Beth she told me she could get me help. But I was in denial and told her I was OK. Several weeks later she stopped at my trailer again and I asked her for help. I had people trying to get in my trailer. There were people telling me they could help me make some easy money. And there was a drug community that was tempting me," she said.
"I tried to be honest with Beth and she hooked me up with Jefferson Behavioral Health and a list of agencies where I could go for help. I found out there was help available but I didn't know where to go or who to call. There wasn't a 211 Informational and Referral system available like there is now," continued Mottle.
"My first stop was the A.L.I.V.E. shelter for a few days. From there I went to the City Rescue Mission and then the YWCA, the Community Action Council and finally the Jefferson Metropolitan Housing Authority for an apartment," Mottle said.
"I had to pound the pavement for about a year looking for a job and a place to live. I was pregnant but I was out looking for work and also working to stay clean. I was able to get housing through the JMHA and started putting my life together. I found temporary jobs. And I was co-parenting my daughter with my ex-husband. I was surviving," she stated.
At that point in her life Mottle wanted to go to college but was afraid her G.E.D. wouldn't be enough to gain admission to Eastern Gateway Community College and she didn't have the financial resources to attend college.
"But I went out to the school and talked to a counselor who told me there was financial aid available and the school also had a day care center where I could leave my son when he was born. So I started taking classes and after my son was born I would take him to the day care center so I could visit him between classes," explained Mottle.
But the depression Mottle experienced was still a part of her life.
"I would get anxious with the courses and trying to work and take care of my son and daughter and I fell off the wagon once while I was taking classes. But I had friends who picked me back up and helped me deal with the issues. I was having a mental breakdown and used again. But people who were my friends are still my friends and that is important," she said.
"And ironically I interned at the United Way offices and now Beth is the executive director of the United Way of Jefferson County. When I interned here I was helping with the Lace Up for Kids program," Mottle added.
"This woman is my hero. She really is. Imagine dealing with the issues she was facing. Making a trip from Montana to Steubenville and living in a tiny camper on South Fifth Street. But she never gave up and has turned her life around. I give credit to her for wanting help and to this great community for stepping forward to provide help. I have always believed and have said repeatedly this community is always ready to help people in need. We have a great network of social service agencies here that can help in many different ways. Many of those agencies are connected to the United Way, which makes me proud," cited Rupert-Warren.
Mottle said it took several years but she obtained three degrees at EGCC.
"I still go to the Urban Mission Food Pantry on occasions when money is running a little tight. Samaritan House has helped us out and the Community Action Council has helped us through the H.E.A.P. program. I still struggle with the temptation of drugs. But you know what? It is a lot easier to say no when people are backing you up. I could not have gone through the recovery process anywhere else," commented Mottle.
"When I arrived in Steubenville I really didn't know what to do. Beth approached me and offered help but didn't push me. She let me think about it and then came back to see me again. I guess I needed someone to notice me. I know I have gone through some bad times but I was never lower in my life as when I first came here. When I was living in my little trailer everything was kind of right out there on the street. At home in Montana the addicts stayed inside and away from people. In Steubenville the addicts are out on the street. If I hadn't changed my life I would be on the street," related Mottle.
"Two people really helped me with simple gestures. The first person was Beth because she kept checking on me and didn't give up on me. The second person was a firefighter named Gray Nagy. I used to walk on North Street at night because I didn't want to just sit in the trailer. Once in the early morning hours I saw a firefighter in front of the fire station watching me. He was wearing a uniform and that gave me a sense of security. Gray invited me in to get warm and have a cup of coffee and that made a big difference in my life and I will never forget that moment of feeling safe," continued Mottle.
"I have learned to work, go to therapy, be honest and take my medications. I see some of the girls who are using drugs and working as prostitutes and it breaks my heart because I could very easily have been there too. A lot of people are ashamed of being an addict. They are just trying to get their next meal. And they don't know who to ask for help. I have learned coping skills and medicine that helps me cope every day," Mottle said.
"When I first came here 11 years ago I didn't think I would survive. But I reunited with my daughter, got a job and went to college. I was dropped off here with no money and facing a culture shock. But Beth helped me find the right help through different social service agencies, and I did survive," noted Mottle.
"This is a true celebration of a recovery. As I said, she is my hero," remarked Rupert-Warren.
"Anytime I see someone who needs help I advise them to call 211 for a referral and to go to Jefferson Behavioral Health. Both agencies can help you find the help you need. I know I can go anywhere and survive. I would like to go back to school and become a social worker. But first I need to find a full-time job," Mottle said.
Mottle and her husband are now preparing to move to Mississippi, where her daughter and son are living with her ex-husband and his wife.
"He is the best ex-husband anyone could ask for. They have already moved to Mississippi and the kids are in school there. My husband and I will be moving there in November. We bought an older motor home and have had it checked out. This one is 23-feet long, which will be more comfortable than that six-by-4- foot pop-up camper. When we get to Mississippi we will be looking for a place to live and jobs. And we are planning to come back to Steubenville in the summer to visit family and friends," Mottle said.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)