As case managers, we are encouraged to “meet people where they are.” When I met with Darla, we sat on the floor of a storage room within the House of Bread and Peace. The room, not only was crowded with Thanksgiving donations ready to be sorted, but it was also the only room away from the hustle and bustle of the other shelter guests. Darla was in a place where she needed security.
She was already struggling when her 25-year-old son passed away from an unexpected drug overdose and at that point it became too much to bear. While grieving for the loss of her son, her resources crumbled away. Darla could no longer focus on maintaining employment to support herself, and she began to isolate away from her family. In December 2011, she filed for Social Security to be later denied benefits. Depression seated itself deeper and deeper as she “timed out” from shelter to shelter. Her memory was proving unreliable, and her anxiety often got the best of her. Chronic health issues had surfaced over the past few years and when I met her, she had been without her medications for more than three weeks.
At the previous shelter, staff aided Darla in applying for housing, food stamps and Medicaid. They also encouraged that she continue to appeal the Social Security denials. The food stamps and Medicaid were the first to come through. Together, we were able to get her medications back on track with the help of her ECHO primary healthcare provider and the township trustees office to cover the co-pays. She started to take advantage of the counseling services available through the shelter. She even rediscovered joy through her natural “green thumb” abilities as she sprouted a sweet potato plant and maintained an out-of-season poinsettia. Darla was finding her security.
At the time we first met, the Social Security appeal hearing was seven months away, and we were working with a 90 day shelter limit. I had recently attended a training regarding the Social Security process and encouraged Darla to contact her lawyer regarding her situation and request her hearing to be rescheduled. There were no guarantees, but the office was able to find a cancellation and decreased the hearing date by four months. In the meantime, Darla used her Medicaid to cover her needed health appointments and took advantage of the “Medicaid cab” to transport her back and forth.
Just recently, she was approved for supportive housing through ECHO Housing’s “New Start” program. Within days of that, she was approved for her Social Security Disability claim. It was a lot to take on all at once, but Darla was brave and had amassed a team of cheerleaders over the course of her stay to keep her on track.
Darla is now in her new apartment envisioning her grandchildren coming to visit and renewing her lost houseplant collection. She enjoys the spring breeze wafting through her windows and cooking in her kitchen. Her newest adventure is learning the neighborhood and reconnecting with her family. I am honored that she allowed me into her life and let me share in her new found happiness.
Danette graduated from Ivy Tech in 2007 with an Associate Degree in Human Services and later graduated in 2010 from USI with her Bachelor Degree in Social Work. Currently, she is pursuing her Masters Degree in Social Work. Prior to be employed at Aurora, she worked at ECHO Community Health Care, Ronald McDonald House Charities and Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center. She enjoy spending time with her husband, three children and dog, Daisy.