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Organization clarifies reports of veteran’s death in VA hospital stairway

Bedford VA Hospital (Magicpiano/WikiCommons)

Caritas Communities, a nonprofit homelessness prevention organization that provides single-room housing for about 1,000 individuals throughout Greater Boston, has issued a clarification statement about the death of Army veteran Timothy White.

White was a 62-year-old U.S. Army veteran who was a resident of a Caritas facility on the Veterans Administration Medical Center campus in Bedford. He had undergone hip surgery and was using a walker when on May 8 he went missing. His body was found June 12 at the bottom of a stairwell about 60 feet from his room.

“Caritas Communities is deeply saddened and offers our condolences to the family and friends of Mr. White,” said Karin Cassel, Executive Director of Caritas Communities. “We care deeply for our residents, many of whom suffer from the trauma of homelessness, and do our part to help them connect to the resources they need to succeed in permanent housing as this is core to our mission.”

Caritas Communities provides on-site staffing to refer and help residents connect to counseling, medical treatment, employment and other services at the VA. The statement said that Caritas Communities “is committed to the health and safety of our residents and follows strict protocols when a resident is discovered missing.”

The statement explained that on May 13 around 1 p.m., Caritas notified VA officials in Bedford of a missing resident. Caritas notified the Bedford Police of the missing person later that afternoon. The following morning, May 14, a Caritas employee visited the VA Police office on campus and reported the person missing.

Caritas said it had been working with the VA and the Bedford Police for a month to try and find White. His body was found on Friday June 12 in an emergency-exit stairwell outside the space leased by Caritas.

“It is one of several stairwells that are outside the leased premises of Caritas Communities and are solely controlled by the VA,” the statement said.

Caritas Communities said it is cooperating fully with the investigation.

The Bedford Veterans Quarters is a Caritas Communities residential facility leased from the VA in one portion of one building on the VA campus in Bedford and provides single room occupancy housing to formerly homeless veterans.

Caritas explained in its statement that it does not provide supportive housing, is not a nursing facility, nor a continuing care facility nor a program where residents “are committed to Caritas’s care and oversight.

“Nor does Caritas provide any medical or other sort of treatment to its residents. Residents are free to come and go as they please and have no obligation to inform the staff of their whereabouts. They regularly go to work, grocery shopping, visiting family and other normal activities. They also frequently participate in programs and use facilities available to them on the VA campus.”

The statement said that White’s body was discovered by another resident of the Bedford Veterans Quarters facility who mistakenly entered the stairwell in June and that discovery led to confusion and inaccurate reports in the media.

The statement stressed that Caritas was expressly forbidden to use the stairwells on the VA property and that senior officials of the VA in Washington had acknowledged the initial information released was incorrect. Caritas said it had searched all areas to which it had access.

As a result in part of a Boston Globe article, members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation asked the VA’s inspector general to investigate the circumstances surrounding White’s death. Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan also launched her own investigation even though her office has said no foul play is suspected.


© 2020 The Patriot Ledger