Hello and welcome, DB--

I attended the SOAR trainings at Cascadia Behavioral HC here in Portland, OR. The SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery) training is designed for social workers and other advocates, and it's running around the country right now, what with the revitalized Interagency Council on Homelessness and the renewed interest in various states to substantially reduce their chronically homeless populations.

A number of recent and compellng articles (The New Yorker, "Million Dollar Murray," February 2006) in the national media have made the case that actually housing someone in an apartment and setting some kind of social worker supervision over them is cheaper than the ER visits and the treatments for the addictions and other health issues that attend upon chronic homelessness. That is, hooking someone up with the SSI/SSDI benefits they're entitled to, addiction counselors and treatments, getting them an apartment and foodstamps, all still add up to less than the millions of dollars needed for untold years of hospital visits, police involvement and repeated incarcerations. Additionally, as I'm sure you know, there've been a number of pretty substantial changes to the SSI/SSDI application appeals process, and the impact of electronic application technology has been considerable in the last several years--all of these factors lead to the current popularity and need for this SOAR training I attended.

The training was put together by a very successful and inspiring social worker in Baltimore, who, prior to riding circuit around the country with this training seminar, used to achieve really incredible results with the applications she was assigned--something in the neighborhood of 80% of her SSI/SSDI applications were approved on the first attempt. The comparable statistic here in SSA Region X is approximately 35% (this excludes 'ordinary' retirement-age applications).

It's a very valuable and insightful training, highly applicable to my job. It's also an excruciating and absolutely depressing training. more because of the subject matter than anything the individual trainers could have done (although, in all honesty, they really could have been a bit better organized and they could have presented these matters in a more constructive format. If I have to hear the phrase "clinical Colombo" one more time, I swear I'm going to break something important and expensive. And then I'm just going to let it sit there for fifty years while I run out of money to fix it properly).

I'm intensely frustrated at this system. It criminalizes and alienates those who most need the help it offers. Apparently there are limestone caves in the east where they keep mountains and mountains of SSA files and a fleet of overworked forklifts, and one reason why it takes so long to get things done is because every time someone requests a file, you literally mount an archeological expedition to find it. It makes Kafka look like a sitcom.

Anyway. That's the training I went to in the last couple of days.

Thanks for your interest, DB--


paulmonster-resident services coordinator


ps--don't worry, David. I've been looking forward to tonight's curtain speech all week.


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