Image of homeless disabled people

Stories about the people ASSIST has been able to help

Daphne: Lived in her car, now in a safe apartment

Daphne worked most of her life as a waitress and a care giver before her significant other passed away from cancer. She had lost her apartment of 25 years because she could no longer support herself through work and had depleted her entire savings. She became homeless for two years, living in her car with her cat and subsisting with the charity of friends, family and most recently a church on the coast. She has been dealing with Chronic Pain Syndrome from multiple car accidents and back injuries. Now that she has been awarded her disability benefits she has some money to pay rent for a safe apartment with the help of a Section 8, HUD voucher.

Ivan: Homeless for over 20 years, now in secure housing

Ivan was homeless for over 20 years. He too had a serious psychiatric event as a young man. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but he does not accept that at all. He never has. To him, the demons that plague him are so real he can feel them physically on his body. He wouldn’t go see doctors because they would tell him that they were all in his head and he knew with absolute certainty they were not. He believes that he, himself, has become a gateway into another realm; not Heaven or Hell but something in between. For Ivan the application process was extremely hard for him. It took him a long time to trust us with his story. We told him we would walk him through it, one step at a time, and that it would be worth it. He could get off the streets and finally get a place of his own. We convinced him we had to go see a psychiatric doctor (together) to talk about these horrible demons. We worked with him to get him to agree to “try” his psychotropic medications because we knew that was the only way we were going to get the Social Security Administration’s doctors to find him credible. Otherwise, they would see him as simply “non-compliant” with his doctor’s treatment plan. Ivan is securely housed now. Afterward he told us that getting his SSI benefits (a mere $721.00 per month) allowed him to help his life-long female friend die in peace. She had lung cancer. She was, “the only one who believed me and watched out for me all those years.” He had been sharing his SSI money for food for her.

Jack: Starving in the backwoods, now in an adult care home with all the help he needs

Jack had his first psychotic break as a young adult in college. He was never the same. His sister now has power of attorney and is his money manager. She had to help us tell Jack’s story, as he could not. His family had tried to get him on benefits three different times. He has required a tremendous amount of support from his family over the years. At the lowest point in Jack’s life he ran away from them, got lost and lived homeless in the backwoods of Oklahoma with his dog for many weeks. When found, he was starving and very ill. His dog had died from eating something rotten because he was starving too. His sister freely explains what finally getting benefits has meant in changing Jack’s circumstances; “He is so safe and secure now in a very nice adult care home with all the help he needs.” It is a tremendous comfort to them to see him thriving as he does in spite of his functional limitations.

Oscar: Agoraphobia, now working with an in-home therapist—and succeeding on his emotional health

Oscar was not homeless but had debilitating agoraphobia. When we met him, he had lived with his elderly parents for six years. He is developmentally challenged and was in special ed. He was born with significant birth defects to his esophagus and stomach. He was able to complete high school. After high school he tried working at the airport assisting people with wheel chairs. When his severe anxiety began to take over his life, he became a shut-in. In order for us to work on his case, we always had to travel to his house when we needed to see him. When he finally received his benefits, we were able to connect him with an in-home therapist to work on his emotional health. Oscar is now a very talkative fellow and within a couple of months, he was able to start taking walks around his neighborhood street. He began to reacquaint himself with many of the neighbors that had known him growing up. His first bus ride in years from Gresham was to come see us in our downtown Portland office. He wanted to surprise us, which he most definitely did.

Shelley: Story from Here Together article about ASSIST

“...Sitting on a couch with her dog at the ASSIST office is sixty-year-old Shelley. She is surrounded by kind faces and support from the ASSIST benefits specialists and caseworkers. At nineteen years old, Shelley was hit by a drunk driver. She suffers from PTSD, injuries and chronic pain, exacerbated by a work-related injury and then a fall in 2011. This left her disabled and unable to work. Through a series of events she became homeless in October 2021. “Helpless is one thing but feeling hopeless is another level of loss,” Shelley says about her situation.

Shelley slept outdoors, on couches, anywhere she was allowed to stay. She eventually had a car to shelter in until she found housing. Thanks to Washington County Housing Authority (a program funded by the Supportive Housing Services tax) and the Easter Seals Oregon housing navigation program, she received a housing voucher. She was referred to the ASSIST program from a senior center where she was charging her phone. With steady encouragement from her caseworker at ASSIST, Chase, she found an available apartment, filled in the application, and provided the required documentation...”

Read the rest of Shelley's story in “Navigating the Maze of SSI with ASSIST” from Here Together

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