CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Debby Weinstein remembers the day Goldie showed up at the YWCA's Sojourner's Shelter on Charleston's East End.
Goldie, who had been a homemaker and who had managed a farm with her husband in another state, was homeless and destitute, another woman in need of the shelter's protection.
Goldie was 89 years old, the victim of a gambling addict -- her only son -- who sold her home, drained her assets and pawned her wedding ring after the death of her husband before purchasing a one-way bus ticket for her to Charleston.
"When he took her wedding ring and sold that, she was trying to figure out an escape plan. She couldn't believe the nightmare she was living in," Weinstein said. "She was not allowed to have phone privileges; he had no phone in the house. She was not allowed to leave the house without him, ever. It was horrible."
Goldie's 83-year-old sister lived St. Albans, but Goldie had not been in touch with her in the two years she had been held captive by her son. After one day with her sister, the landlord appeared to warn them Goldie had three days to vacate the single-occupant apartment, and with no money, Goldie was taken to Sojourner's -- in the back of a police car.
"We took steps so that Goldie could be her own guardian again, manage her own money and cut her son off from that, and she did," Weinstein said. "She celebrated her 90th birthday in our homeless shelter. What's wrong with that picture? Absolutely everything."
According to Weinstein, executive director of the Charleston YWCA, Goldie was a wake-up call for the organization.
"I started noticing a trend in the late '90s and early 2000s, in both our homeless shelter and our battered women's shelter; we were seeing more and more seniors who were experiencing abuse and exploitation and ending up at our homeless shelter and our domestic violence shelter," she said.
Weinstein and others realized a need for a shelter dedicated to victims of elder abuse, and in December 2004, the Shanklin Center welcomed its first resident. The center, which consists of eight apartments, provides housing for disabled seniors who have been victims of elder abuse and have experienced homelessness as a result.
The center is the first of its kind in the state, but PK Khoury, director of communications for the YWCA, said the problem of elder abuse is more widespread than many people realize.
"While Goldie's story is unique, it's also typical of the victims who come to us; they've lost their resources, they've lost their way, they've lost their self-respect, they've lost their independence, and we give that back," Khoury said.
Saturday is World Elder Abuse Prevention and Awareness Day. According to the YWCA, 90 percent of elder abuse victims suffer at the hands of their children or close relatives. Of those who are abused, roughly 1 in 14 cases are reported.
One of those victims, Anita Britton, has lived at the Shanklin Center for three years. Britton, a lifelong resident of Kanawha County, said she was abused by both of her former husbands and, eventually, her daughter, before coming to the center.