SOAR Voices


Community Makes the Difference

There are few things that connect a person more to their community than a home.  This is especially true when a person who has experienced homelessness finally gets to turn the key to their new apartment.  For September’s Recovery Month, Policy Research Associates, Inc. and the SAMHSA SOAR Technical Assistance Center decided to highlight one such success story!  Since 2013 staff at the SAMHSA SOAR TA Center have been occasionally completing Social Security Disability applications using the SOAR model for eligible applicants at Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless (IPH), a shelter located in downtown Albany, New York.  I began working with Russell in early 2014, he was 50 years old and had experienced multiple episodes of homelessness and housing instability since the early 2000s.  Despite wanting to work he was unable to maintain steady employment due to the symptoms of his diagnoses. He was kind, friendly and had the support of a community agency.  I knew if we were able to get him income (through SSI/SSDI), he would be able to turn that key.  Using the SOAR model Russell was approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in 41 days!

Once approved Russell was able to obtain housing through Interfaith’s supportive housing program. He has his own apartment which he loves and has filled with books, historical newspaper clippings, and movies.  He has a housing case manager who helps him to manage his appointments and relationships with his neighbors, a representative payee who assists him with managing his finances, and the continued support of IPH.  Russell volunteers weekly at an antique shop in Albany which not only fulfills his desire to work but he also loves working with, looking at, and promoting antiques!

Russell has become a part of both the SOAR and Interfaith community; you will often see him pop by the shelter to say, “Hi!” or walking around downtown.  A home, a sense of security, and being able to volunteer has not only made Russell more healthy physically (he lost 40 lbs!), mentally, and emotionally; but it has also given him a sense of purpose and happiness. 

The views, opinions, and content expressed in SOAR Voices do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors.