Homeless Outreach Program
Park Center’s Homeless Outreach Program was founded in May 2006 as a pilot project of the Metropolitan Homelessness Commission.
45% of individuals experiencing homelessness also struggle with mental illness. Park Center's Homeless Outreach Program consists of two components: SSI/SSDI (SOAR) and Street Outreach. Both SOAR Outreach Coordinators and Street Outreach Specialists work seamlessly together within the greater Nashville community to help connect homeless members with vital resources and services. The goal is to return members to the community as healthy, working and independent adults.
What is SSI/SSDI and SOAR?
SSI – Supplemental Security Income
SSDI –Social Security Disability Income
SOAR - SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery
Street Outreach Specialists help homeless individuals navigate the complex social services system and obtain social security cards, birth certificates, IDs, clothing, case management, medication, transportation, and housing, which provides homeless individuals with a sense of stability and dignity. Street Outreach Specialists also provide a consistent presence for individuals who are often overlooked and abandoned by society at large.
SOAR Outreach Coordinators work to increase access to disability benefits (SSI/SSDI) for people who are chronically homeless and have a mental illness through the Social Security Administration. Though the application process is often complicated and full of barriers for homeless individuals (i.e. the lack of a consistent address, income, telephone, transportation and medical treatment), receiving such benefits is a stepping stone to recovery as it provides individuals with stability, housing and hope. Park Center's Homeless Outreach Program utilizes SOAR strategies and our efforts have gained state and national acclaim. The SOAR curriculum is different from others in that it trains case managers to actively assist applicants, it focuses on the initial application and avoids appeals, it emphasizes documenting disabilities to reduce the need for consultative exams, and it is highly cost effective.
Referral criteria for SSI/SSDI assistance (SOAR)
- Individual must be chronically homeless (1 year continuous or 4 episodes of sleeping on the streets or in a shelter over the last 3 years).
- Individual must be living within Davidson County.
- Individual must have a documented mental illness diagnosis.
- Claim cannot already be in the application process with Social Security. Claim must be started from the beginning.
If you or someone you know meets these criteria and would like to send a referral to SOAR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 615-242-3576, ext. 120.
Completed referrals can be faxed to (615) 650-8917. Once referral is made, a screening appointment will set with one of the SOAR Coordinators to assess eligibility for the program.
Awards and SOAR Success Statistics
- 2012 Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organization (TAMHO) Program of Execellence Award
- Heroes in the Fight Award in 2008 from the Eli Lilly and Company, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the Mental Health America advocacy organizations.
- July 2008 program presentation of strategies and successes at the National Alliance to End Homelessness’s annual conference in Washington D.C.
- Outstanding Community Service Award in 2007 from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health, presented at Tennessee’s annual Ending Homelessness Conference
- Mental Health Program of the Year Award in 2007 from the Nashville Chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness
SOAR Success Statistics
In Tennessee, less than 25% of all applicants who apply for SSI/SSDI are approved on initial application, and it is estimated that only 10–15% of homeless applicants are approved. Park Center has demonstrated a 96% success rate with homeless individuals (318 out of 330 approved as of June 2011), and while applications normally take anywhere from 120 days to two years, Park Center's average rate of determination is 64.5 days from application date. Consider that if the 318 of 330 clients who were approved for disability benefits so far through Park Center’s program maintain their SSI/SSDI eligibility for only one year, over $2,571,984 in federal funds will enter our state in the form of cash benefits from SSI/SSDI.
Ashley Blum, Homeless Outreach Supervisor: 517-9430
Photographs for Homeless Outreach Services' page have been generously donated by Justin Wright.