This presentation was first delivered at the National Alliance to End Homelessness’s Innovations & Solutions for Ending Unsheltered Homelessness conference on March 1, 2023.

Timely access to mainstream benefits transforms lives. First, scroll through the embedded presentation to meet Carol, Rasheeda, and Jimmy, beneficiaries of the Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) process.

Homeless to Housed: Walking the Journey of Accessing Mainstream Benefits by Policy Research

Carol is just one of over half a million people who experienced homelessness in the United States. In 2022, instances of homelessness increased significantly, particularly for single individuals and people with disabilities. People who identify as Black, African American, African, and Indigenous continue to be overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness.

There are dozens of federal and state-specific benefits programs designed to assist people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness but navigating these very complex systems can be challenging.

But SOAR works! SOAR is a culturally sensitive, trauma-informed, community-based model for assisting eligible applicants in applying for SSI/SSDI. SOAR works with people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, with serious and persistent diagnoses that are often co-occurring. We work to answer the question, “why is the applicant unable to work.” And while SOAR is active in all 50 states, the initiative must grow to serve those who are most in need.

The key to SOAR and connecting applicants with benefits is telling their story, clearly linking their diagnoses to their functional limitations and ability to work. People are not just their diagnoses; they are not only medical records or applications; they are people with goals, accomplishments, and dreams.

What makes SOAR unique? We serve as the applicant’s representative and advocate to the Social Security Administration on their behalf. We collect all the applicant’s medical records and develop new evidence when needed. We tell the applicant’s story through a comprehensive Medical Summary Report. And we submit complete high-quality applications!

SOAR, timely access to Social Security disability benefits, and other benefit programs have a big impact, including income, health insurance, greater connection to the community, friends, and family, as well as greater access to subsidized or supportive housing and employment supports.

SOAR transforms lives!