In June 2012, the Kern County Homeless Collaborative (KCHC) was one of only nine Continuums of Care on Homelessness across the nation to receive a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Technical Assistance Grant that year to help with the local implementation of the SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery) Project, which is designed to expedite access to Social Security disability benefits for people who are homeless and have serious mental illness and/or co-occurring substance use disorders.
All 50 states now participate in the SAMHSA SOAR Technical Assistance Project, and outcomes from 44 states provide evidence of the efficacy of SOAR. In 2011, 71 percent of nearly 15,000 applications submitted using the SOAR approach were approved on initial application in 101 days on average. The national average for all applicants is 31 percent. With these benefits, people who are homeless or at-risk have a reliable source of income that makes it easier to access housing and supportive services. This can lead to long-term self-sufficiency and recovery, and help to end homelessness for many in the community.
During a FREE two-day training that took place Dec. 5-6, 2012, a total of 31 case workers and benefits specialists from 15 agencies affiliated with the KCHC were certified in the SOAR "Stepping Stones to Recovery" method for expediting SSI/SSDI applications on behalf of homeless clients. Just two months later, Kern County's first SOAR application was approved by the Sierra Branch of the Social Security Disability Determination Services Office. Read all about that success by clicking here.
Being certified as a SOAR Benefits Specialist gains one exclusive access to a web-based system for tracking clients' SSI/SSDI applications: SAMHSA's SSI/SSDI Online Application Tracking system (SOAR OAT). Using OAT will help our Homeless Collaborative to track outcomes and create reports on the progress of SOAR applications locally.
The KCHC SOAR Leadership Team has made it a point to blog extensively about our SOAR experience: from Technical Grant Award; to Train the Trainer Traning; to Local SOAR Rollout Planning Forum; to First SOAR Training; to Success Stories.
This effort payed off in January 2013, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in announcing nationally this year's technical grant opportunity for jurisdictions that have yet to introduce SOAR, highlighted the accomplishments of a handful of communities around the country that have implemented or are rolling out the project successfully. Among them was our community, with a complimentary nod from HUD and a link to our website as follows:
COME "SOAR" WITH US!
For more information about the Kern County Homeless Collaborative's SOAR Project; our SOAR Standing Committee, which meets monthly (Click here for our online calendar); and how your agency can get involved, please contact our Local SOAR Co-Leads:
Neda Mashayekhi, Esq., Supervising Attorney of Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance’s Community Homeless Law Center Project, at email@example.com; or
Dr. Gerald Cantu, Chief Programs Officer and Homeless Advocate for Representative Payee Agency Stewards, Inc., at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also invite you to visit and "like" the Kern County Homeless Collaborative's Facebook Page, Faces of Homelessness, at www.facebook.com/fohkern, and the SOAR Technical Assistance Center's Facebook Page, SOARWorks, at www.facebook.com/SOARWorks.
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