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Housed for the Holidays

Ms. Smith came to Flagler Cares after losing her housing due to her landlord selling the home she had been renting. She and her family were staying in a motel until they could no longer afford it. Ms. Smith and her 4 children were living in their car for 3 days when they learned about Flagler Cares. She had full-time employment in the medical field. Her 3 oldest children would be in school and her youngest would stay with a friend during the day while she worked.

Ms. Smith began working with our Care Coordinator who helped link her with resources for diapers, food, and shelter. She continued to save money while they worked together on finding affordable housing. After a few weeks, Ms. Smith secured affordable housing and also saved enough money for the move-in cost. She did not have enough money for the deposits for the utilities, so Flagler Cares was able to assist with paying her deposits through the Barrier Removal Fund. Our Care Coordinator partnered with Christmas Come True and St. Vincent de Paul to obtain beds and other furnishings for her new home. With the family moving in the week of Thanksgiving, the Flagler Cares team was able to provide a Publix gift card and other personal care and household items to help the family get settled in time for Thanksgiving. Ms. Smith was very thankful for Flagler Cares’ assistance. She and her children are now housed for the holidays.

*Client name has been changed to maintain confidentiality

The Road to Stability

Ms. Davis began working with a Flagler Cares’ Care Coordinator to see if she might be eligible for assistance with applying for Social Security Disability in March of this year. Ms. Davis has been working with her Care Coordinator for most of this year gathering the necessary medical documents and completing the application.

Recently Ms. Davis was scheduled for an evaluation—a critical step in the long process to successfully submit a disability claim. The appointment was over 30 miles away from her home and she did not have transportation or the means to get to the appointment. Her Care Coordinator was able to secure a taxi service to bring Ms. Davis to her consultative exam through the Flagler Cares Barrier Removal Fund. A few weeks later, because of this exam, her disability was confirmed, and she was awarded SSI benefits.

Ms. Davis will now have stable income and be able to afford to maintain her housing. With the help of Flagler Cares, the client began her journey on the road to stability.

*Client name has been changed to maintain confidentiality

Ms. Burton Success Story

Ms. Burton was referred to Flagler Cares through a local health agency when she and her 83-year-old veteran father became homeless.  Their landlord notified them that their rental was going to be sold, leaving them nowhere to go. This is a common issue that many renters are having in the Flagler County area as more rentals are being sold and taken out of the rental market.

Flagler Cares combines grants and other funding streams in order to best assist our clients.  With our blended funds, we were able to assist the Burtons with a hotel for a short period of time so they could secure a new rental.  Without these funds, the family would have had to stay in their car.

The client worked very hard during this period of assistance to maximize their chance of success, by not only locating a rental but also securing “gig work” to help increase their income during this time. Clients who actively participate in their housing plan have the best outcomes.

Flagler Cares was able to assist the household with their rental and utility deposits as well as their first two months of rent to allow for them to pay for their items to be moved into their new apartment.  This funding was through the Rapid Rehousing grant (ESG-RRH).

Just today, Ms. Burton sent the following email to their Flagler Cares’ Care Coordinator:

“I just wanted to touch base with you and let you know that things are really going well, and I feel like I can breathe again, and I don’t know how I got so fortunate in having you placed in my path. Thank you so much for everything.”

If you or someone you know are homeless or at risk of being homeless, please reach out to Flagler Cares at 386-319-9483 extension 2 for more information.

Ms. T and the Full Circle

Every January starts with hope. Hope your program will succeed, hope that clients will be successful. In January 2020, Ms. T was a client in a residential program at WARM through SMA Healthcare in Flagler County. This program provides substance abuse counseling and intensive support to help women move away from addiction and toward the future. I met Ms. T at the WARM facility in Flagler. She was clearly a strong woman with a very kind manner. I took her SSDI and SSI applications thorough the SOAR program and cautioned her that the hardest part would be staying with her application after she left the care of the WARM program.

In mid-February, Ms. T left WARM and moved in with a family friend in Palm Coast. It was not an ideal situation. The “friend” was verbally abusive and caused Ms. T to suffer from anxiety and stress. We agreed to exchange documents via the mailbox. I would leave brightly colored envelopes of forms and documents; she would text me when she had completed them.

She attended medically assisted treatment and group therapies with SMA. She never wavered from participating in her case. By April 10th, her file, with all its medical records was filed at Social Security. The SOAR model is uniquely designed to support the fastest decision track for all clients.

On August 24, 2020, Ms. T was awarded Social Security benefits as well as Medicaid. She received $5461 in back pay and $783 per month for as long as her conditions remain disabling. Her benefits came with one caveat. She would need a representative payee. Many times, when someone has a mental health condition that may affect judgement, SSA will require a payee. Ms. T was amiable to this arrangement but had no one in her life that could be trusted to handle her funds and meet her needs.

Flagler Cares had previously worked with SMA Healthcare to provide a representative payee for a mutual client in the PATH program in Volusia County. Ms. T. would pose a challenge as she was not enrolled in those services and was living in Flagler County. After some searching for the right program fit, SMA Healthcare stepped up and provided an experienced representative payee. On September 14, less than 3 weeks since she was awarded benefits, Ms. T and the payee met with Social Security by phone to seal the deal. SMA’s quick attention to the needs of the client meant she got her benefits as soon as possible. She had started at SMA Healthcare and she had ended there. The perfect outcome for a Flagler County resident in need of income, support, and ongoing services.

Family of 6 Finds Housing through Rapid Rehousing Program at Flagler Cares

Family can be complicated. When the Gomez family came to Flagler Cares around Independence Day in 2020, they had more dependents than they bargained for. As grandparents to 4 kids under 14, they hadn’t been expecting to end up with custody of all 4 children. They were living in a motel in Volusia County, trying to provide for 6 people on a Social Security Disability income when the grandfather became unemployed.

Flagler Cares had become the recipient of a HUD ESG grant for Rapid Rehousing (RRH) just a few days before. This type of funding is intended to assist newly homeless individuals and family in finding and funding housing. The fund can provide hotel nights while a family looks for and secures housing as well as security deposits, assistance with first/last month’s rents and utility deposits. In some cases, the program can provide additional ongoing rent support until families become stabilized.

Throughout July and August, the Gomez family worked with Flagler Cares to find appropriate housing, that fit their budget and size needs. They texted daily about available properties and the challenges that the family needed to address to find housing. Housing within Flagler County is often not affordable, so a wider search area is used to find affordable options. By September, the family had found a place in a neighboring county.

To facilitate the acceptance of RRH funds, landlords must cooperate in the process. Alliance Realty broker John Chapman has worked in real estate in Flagler County for over 30 years and supported the family’s tenancy and worked closely with RRH to get them placed quickly. When a unit was found, Flagler Cares staff inspected the property quickly. The family moved into the unit at the end of September, after 90 days in a single hotel room.

Rapid Rehousing requires that the applicants and providers work together to find and secure housing. With the shortage of affordable housing and a pandemic causing record rent delinquencies, it is important to create processes that support families as they seek housing services. Flagler Cares prides itself on clear, agile program access that supports clients needs.

Bunnell Widow Uses IDASSIST/SOAR Program to Access Social Security Benefits

Ms. C came to Flagler Cares in October 2019, when she was referred by Flagler Habitat for Humanity. She was delinquent on a small equity line she had taken out on her Habitat for Humanity home and had no income. Her husband had died earlier in the year and she was struggling to access his widow’s benefits from Social Security.

She had contacted Social Security, but they simply told her she did not qualify. They did not tell her how to qualify, when she would qualify or why she did not qualify. Flagler Cares was able to assist Ms. C on a conference call to Social Security which revealed that she would qualify for widow’s benefits when she turned 60 years old. This was only 6 months away in July 2020. She was missing some of the documentation that she would need to apply. Ms. C is a smart lady but struggles to read and write. A Flagler Cares team member accompanied her on a trip to the courthouse to help her get documentation of their marriage and to Vital Statistics to get proof of her husband’s death and her birth certificate.

The IDASSIST program, funded by United Way invested $18.11 in Ms. C’s documentation, but it would pay great returns. We reached back out to her 90 days before her 60th birthday and connected her to a help line at Social Security where she could apply over the phone given that Social Security was closed to the public due to the COVID-19 virus and Ms. C would have difficulty completing the paperwork by hand.

On May 27th, 2020, Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Lindsay Elliott sent the following update via email.

Just wanted to update you, Ms. C had her call with SS today to complete the application over the phone. She is sending in her original marriage license with her bank account information and she will begin receiving Social Security after her 60th birthday so the 4th Wednesday in July she will receive her first $959.00 deposit.

Thank you for all of your help and making this happen. We would not have known when to apply, that she could apply or the process without your assistance!

Not a bad return of $18.11!

Tackling Homelessness with Ongoing Advocacy

As anyone can imagine, homelessness takes a toll on the body. Aging is not easy for any of us but add sleeping outdoors every night and the toll is even greater. I met Mr. Joseph in April of 2020. He is a charming man, with a polite way about him. He was clearly worn down by the stressors of living outdoors. He was receiving services from Volusia Flagler County Coalition for the Homeless case manager Chris Thomas but needed additional support.

On this day, we needed to address the first hurdle. He is a clever almost jolly man, but he confided in our first meeting that he was functionally illiterate. He needed to provide proof of his income and get that proof to Mr. Thomas so he could work on housing options. This is no small task when you are living in the woods, are functionally illiterate and have little understanding of technology. Mr. Joseph knew he got his Social Security Disability to a Direct Express card but did not have the ability to access the card online. He could call Social Security and request proof of his income, but the up to 3 weeks wait to receive it in the mail was too long.

I helped him create and log into his account online using the Flagler Cares cell phone and within a few minutes, uploaded proof of his income to the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). On May 18, 2020, I joined the call to advocate for Mr. Joseph and 3 other clients seeking housing. Mr. Thomas was also on the call, as well as the person who handles placement at an affordable housing development in Volusia County. Through the call, it was clear that Mr. Joseph was a good fit and they had openings. Chris finished the call ready to move forward with coordinating their services with the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Rapid Rehousing Program to pay security deposits to move him in.

Just 10 days later, on a hot, steamy Thursday morning, I joined Mr. Thomas and Mr. Joseph in the wooded area near the big box store where we had first met. It was moving day. The sixty-year-old Mr. Joseph toddled happily but slowly through the underbrush along a path into the woods. He lifted two large black garbage bags filled with clothing from the leafy floor and carried them out to the van. Mr. Thomas and I followed, carrying a lantern, some tools, a couple of wide brimmed hats and two prized possessions- a blue canvas reclining chair and a sturdy blue bicycle.

Mr. Joseph is an example of the ongoing advocacy that must thrive in a community to tackle homelessness.

Mr. Jomart came to Flagler Cares on January 31st, 2020. The new year had arrived, but nothing was new and bright for him. Bedridden with swollen, weeping legs, he was sleeping on an air mattress in a friend’s home. With no income and in terrible health, he had very little to look forward to each day. However, Flagler County has a unique and extraordinary service in the Community Paramedical program. Paramedic Caryn Prather visited Mr. Jomart and helped him address the difficulty in getting out of bed, dressing wounds, and helping him access medical assistance.

She also referred him to our SOAR program. Through our conversations, we agreed he was a good candidate for SOAR. We divided and conquered. She got him a bed, I got him a stack of paperwork for SOAR. She dropped off documents to his Palm Coast home, I picked them up.

On August 28, 2020, he was approved for SSI benefits and granted Medicaid. From day of application until he was awarded benefits was 138 days. For a person dealing with no income, housing instability, transient housing, and homelessness- this is an amazing outcome.

We will continue to assist him to seek additional housing options with his $783 month income as well as 5 months of back pay. He can get regular health support through Medicaid. For the community health programs, this is also a win. Gaining income and insurance, he will now free up space within these programs for another client to received services.

Family of 5 Spends Thanksgiving in Their Car and Christmas in Their Home

It is never a good feeling when you receive a referral from Janet Nickels, Human Services Program Manager-Flagler County two days before Thanksgiving regarding a family of five living in their car, but homelessness has no calendar or holidays. With the assistance of the Volusia/Flagler County Coalition for the Homeless (VFCCH) Outreach Worker, Flagler Cares was able to respond quickly to assist the Jacob family.

Flagler Cares is a recipient of a HUD ESG-COVID grant for Rapid Rehousing (RRH). This type of funding is intended to assist newly homeless individuals and families in finding and funding housing when the family has been impacted by COVID-19. The fund can provide security deposits and partial rents to assist clients in remaining housed.

The client had picked up additional shifts at work as well as begun her search for housing. By working with a local property owner, she was able to locate a rental unit for her and her four children (ages 7, 10, 12, 16). She had worked hard to save enough money to pay her own utility security deposits, but she needed assistance with her security deposit for her rental. The RRH grant was able to provide this support.

To facilitate the acceptance of RRH funds, landlords must cooperate in the process. The local property owner supported the family’s tenancy and worked closely with RRH to get them placed quickly. Flagler Cares’ staff inspected the property quickly and the family moved into their new home on December 9th. The family will now be able to celebrate and create memories for their 2020 holidays.

Cooperative Programs Remove Barriers to Sight

In February 2020, a Flagler County resident came to Flagler Cares to get an ID through the IDAssist program. She had been struggling with mental illness for years and had no income while she applied to Social Security Disability. Her quality of life was further impacted by her declining eyesight due to cataracts in both eyes.

She had come to Flagler to live with her sister and was working hard to regain her health. She had gone to the county’s indigent health program to get funds to get her cataracts removed but needed proof she was a Flagler County resident. She was referred to Flagler Cares by the County Human Services office. She first needed her out of state birth certificate.

DeAnna OFlaherty, Project Director, worked with her to request her birth certificate online and then met her at the tag office just days before the shutdown to assist her in getting her ID. The total investment by Flagler Cares was $89.50 and an hour of staff time.

In March, she was able to get the go ahead for the cataract surgery on both eyes. Flagler County Human Services provided the funding to Tomoka Eye to remove her cataracts in two separate procedures. Even with the Covid-19 restrictions, both surgeries had been accomplished by July of 2020. The total cost of the surgery was estimated at around $3,000 per eye. Without the ID assist program and with no income, she would have never had access to this sight saving procedure.

What an amazing rate of return on $89.50 investment. The basic right to have proper identification is protected by United Way funding. United Way provides hope and removes barriers to accessing other benefit programs though their innovative Social Determinants of Health programs.

The Promises of the Future Just Out of Reach

Sometimes clients need just a little assistance to make big things happen. Mr. King had money that could support him but the road to reach it had many obstacles. Mr. King was referred to our office by his mental health case worker at SMA Healthcare. He had recently been released from prison after two and a half years. However, when he returned to the Palm Coast area, he found that he could no longer live in his family home. His mother died within just a few days of his incarceration and family members had moved on with selling the home leaving him with nowhere to go.

His probation officer had helped him set goals among them to get his mental health medication and counseling needs squared away immediately. He began services at SMA in Bunnell. His caseworker emailed DeAnna OFlaherty, SOAR Project Director at Flagler Cares to ask about how to get the client qualified for food stamps, a cell phone and to regain Social Security Disability funds he had been receiving before prison.

Flagler Cares provided information on getting food stamps and a free cell phone. The next day, November 17th, DeAnna and Flagler Cares, Care Coordinator Kelly Knott, met with Mr. King at the Bunnell Library to discuss his housing needs. He related to them that he did not have a valid ID and that he had been left money in his mother’s estate that he could not access despite it being issued to him when he was incarcerated.

The first step, however, was to get his out of state birth certificate. This can be difficult when someone has been incarcerated and has no valid ID. DeAnna worked with the state vital statistics office to request his birth certificate using his DOC ID asking for an expedited process on the clients behalf. By December 2nd, the birth certificate was received.

DeAnna accompanied Mr. King to secure his driver’s license which had expired while he was incarcerated. The driver’s license also allowed him to keep his motorcycle endorsement. Mr. King was thrilled to find that he might be able to purchase a motorcycle which would be much less expensive than a car and get back on the road as he was riding a bicycle that had been donated by a church.

His SMA case worker continued to help him with food stamps and a cell phone, with information provided by Flagler Cares and his newly secured ID. Church of Christ, Bunnell and the Family Assistance Center/ The Sheltering Tree paid for hotel nights until he could get his funds. Within just 2 weeks of the initial referral, he was able to get his birth certificate, food stamps, a cell phone, and the disbursement of $10,000 in personal funds that were being held by the Department of Corrections. He had received the small inheritance at his mother’s death, however, because he had no fixed address, no identification, and no bank account it made it impossible for him to access these funds that could help him secure housing.

For $115.25 from the United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties supported IDAssist program, he got his driver’s license back for the next 8 years, got his birth certificate, stabilize his food insecurity, secured a cell phone which he paid a full year in advance as soon as he got his bank account. This investment resulted in the client being able to secure $10,000 in funds to help with his reintegration and to meet the requirements of his probation to find housing and create a local support network including mental health services. Housing and SOAR services will continue to support him. The return on investment, in the end, is immeasurable.

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