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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.

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