Ms. X Regains Independence
Ms. X is a 64 year old immigrant from Spain. She came to America on a student visa and obtained a Master’s of Science in Microbiology. After graduating, Ms. X went on to do research for a major hospital in Houston. She then went to Catholic Charities Immigration Department and received assistance obtaining residency. Ms. X was doing well and living the American Dream as an independent woman.
Unfortunately, Ms. X lost her job and was unable to find another job in her field. As a result, she had to work low paying jobs until she ultimately hurt her back and could no longer work. She was left with no income and a possible eviction from her apartment. In addition, she had no furniture and the apartment complex was threatening to turn off her electricity for nonpayment. She also had no health insurance for a recent diagnosis of breast cancer. On top of no insurance, Ms. X still could not begin treatment because of several infected teeth that needed to be extracted and doctors reported that the infection of the teeth could take over her body while on chemotherapy.
Ms. X’s situation had become complicated, so she called the 2-1-1/United Way Helpline for assistance. She was connected to a Care for Elders (CFE) case manager housed at Catholic Charities, and the case manager helped Ms. X apply for Social Security Disability and Medicaid. While the application for Social Security Disability was pending, her CFE case manager was able to obtain three months of rent from the CFE Flexible Funding Pool so that Ms. X would not be evicted. Catholic Charities also paid for her to get several teeth extracted from the University of Texas School of Dentistry, so cancer treatment could begin as soon as possible. In addition, her case manager assisted with furniture donated to Catholic Charities and connected her to Lone Star Legal Aid for pro bono services and education on tenant rights.
Ms. X now receives her full monthly benefits from Social Security Disability and is able to pay her own rent. She went to court and won a dispute filed by her apartment complex with the help of Lone Star Legal Aid. She is also going through cancer treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and although she is still battling breast cancer, Ms. X has a little less stress and has begun to regain her independence.
Helping Mr. E on the Road to Self Empowerment
Mr. E, a jovial and humorous 77 year “young” immigrant from the West Indies, came to seek his fortune in the United States in the 1970s. He recalls a happy childhood in his homeland but his adventurous spirit was not satisfied. He and a friend hopped on a boat and made it to America. Never afraid to try new things and work hard, Mr. E soon became a skilled painter in New York. Once again feeling restless he moved on to Florida, where he continued working as a painter and carpenter. He finally made his way to Houston and has now resided here for many years.
His companion and devoted caregiver Ms. I contacted the 2-1-1 Texas / United Way HELPLINE several years ago because he was having trouble paying his rent and utility bill as he received the minimum social security income.
In addition to financial assistance, the client also needed hearing aids, an eye exam and dental care. He used the bus to get around but had trouble affording the fare.
The Care for Elders Case Manager assisted the client with enrollment in the Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program for utility assistance, obtaining hearing aids and a phone for the hearing impaired, and secured a voucher for an eye exam and glasses. He was provided with food from the Sheltering Arms pantry and holiday gifts from Universal American and the Salvation Army.
Unfortunately, Mr. E’s health began to decline. Because some of his health issues were due to severe dental decay and frequent oral infections, the client was referred to UT Dental Branch, where it was determined that all his teeth needed to be removed and replaced with dentures. The Flexible Funding Pool approved to payment for his surgery and dentures. The process was grueling for the client and he struggled to heal from his oral surgery, but with the loving care of his companion, he healed fully and was able to be fitted with his new teeth earlier this year.
Mr. E’s health has vastly improved and he is back to telling jokes and looking for wood scraps and discarded materials from which to create a unique piece of jewelry or piece of décor. His dream is to have a little job where he can put his carpentry skills to use!
From Dependence to Independence: Ms. A
Ms. A is a 62 year old woman living in Houston, who called the 2-1-1 Texas/United Way Helpline for assistance as she was $3,500 behind on her mortgage. Ms. A was suffering from multiple health problems, no health insurance, and unable to afford any medications to treat her high anxiety, depression, and insomnia. She was working but her ailing health problems forced her to miss work, and as a result, her hours were cut. Due to her complex financial and health needs, Ms. A was connected to Care for Elders’ Access Network and case management partner, Sheltering Arms Senior Services. Annemieke Pike-Luckey, the Sheltering Arms case manager working with Ms. A, began connecting Ms. A to local agencies for counseling on housing options and foreclosure prevention, and access to health care and utility assistance.
Ms. A began receiving health care services through the Hospital District but was unable afford the co-pays. Ms. Pike-Luckey connected Ms. A to resources for prescription assistance and accessed the Care for Elders Flexible Funding Pool to assist with co-pays. Ms. A, who was previously a teacher in Massachusetts but not certified to teach in Texas, was accepted into the Region IV Alternative Teacher Certification program. During that time, she continued to make every effort to get assistance with her mortgage.
Unfortunately, as Ms. A began making progress to address her health and financial challenges, her health conditions worsened and was instructed by her physician to stop working. Soon after, Ms. A’s laptop stopped working. Together with the Care for Elders field specialist, Hilda Evans, Ms. Pike-Luckey helped Ms. A quickly access computer repair services. In order to prevent foreclosure and repossession of Ms. A’s car, the Review Committee for Flexible Funding Pool approved payment of past due mortgage, car, and utility payments as well as her teacher certification exam. Ms. A continued to attend foreclosure prevention counseling in order to obtain a loan modification. She passed the teaching certification exam before the school year started and secured a part time job, all while working with her case manager and partner agencies to find job leads and pursue a home loan modification.
By summer, Ms. A’s loan modification was approved, which lowered her monthly bankruptcy settlement payment; her health began to improve; and was offered and accepted a full-time teaching position in HISD!
Help is a Phone Call Away: Ms. Z Gains Financial Stability
Ms. Z is a 62 year-old who immigrated to the United States and has worked in healthcare for the same employer for 22 years. Last year, she had to undergo surgery and was unable to return to full-time work. She was able to work part-time but her health and financial issues became overwhelming. Ms. Z called 2-1-1 when she lacked the funds to cover her utility bill and mortgage, and was connected to Care for Elders Access Network. Through the Network, she began working with Gloria Berendzen, a lead case manager within the Economic Independence Initiative (EI2). Ms. Berendzen did a comprehensive assessment with Ms. Z and found she rotated which monthly bills she would pay because her income couldn't cover them all. She contacted Sandra Harris, a financial coach with Family Services of Greater Houston, an EI2 partner. Together, they met with Ms. Z and reviewed her financial information including her income and expenses, and created a plan to improve her economic stability. Ms. Z reports after working with her case manager and financial coach on her financial challenges, she wishes she had reached out for help earlier. Ms. Z's story represents how new partnerships through EI2 are improving the financial well-being of Houston's older adults.
Beyond Repair: How Care for Elders helped Mr. H and his Wife Save their Home
Mr. H and his wife have lived in their house for more than 30 years. It's the home where they raised their children and connected them to the Heights community. When a window unit started to leak, causing the kitchen wall to deteriorate, they began to worry about keeping up with the costs of maintaining their home. Mr. H and his wife are retired and like many older adults, social security is their only source of income. Their income was able to cover their basic expenses and although they tried to save the money needed for this repair, were not able to save enough.
Over time, the leak caused the siding on Mr. H's house to rot and fall off. The damage created a hole on the inside of the kitchen wall and Mr. H worried it would collapse. Mr. H's neighbor was also concerned about the safety of the couple's home and called the 2-1-1 Texas/United Way Helpline on their behalf. Through 2-1-1, Mr. H was connected to Care for Elders Access Network and received case management services from Catholic Charities.
When Catholic Charities case manager, Nichole Vander Veer, first met Mr. H and his wife, they were both in a constant state of worry over their damaged home. As an Access Network partner, Ms. Vander Veer was able to request support for their home repair through Care for Elders Flexible Funding Pool. The damaged wall was repaired and the house repainted. When Ms. Vander Veer visited the couple after the repairs were made, Mr. H looked relieved and happily reported "a weight has been lifted off of our shoulders!"
Mr. D's Trouble with Reverse Mortgage
When Nichole Vander Veer, Catholic Charities case manager, first met with 78 year old Mr. D, he was having difficulty understanding the very grave situation in was in financially. Mr. D was not aware he owed over $2,100 in back taxes and even after thorough explanation was still confused about what had happened.
Mr. D initially took out a reverse mortgage in the amount of $187,000 to remodel his home, choosing to receive the full amount in a lump sum. He came from a family that had many rental properties and when his father passed away, he was given "a lot of money" but admittedly lost it all due to living beyond his income. Mr. D lost many of the rental properties that his parents owned and passed on to him but still has one property that allows for four separate rentals. Ms. Vander Veer recognized Mr. D's impaired judgment and possible depression as serious factors in defaulting on his reverse mortgage. In addition, he was struggling to stay organized and collect rent due from his tenants; and was poorly managing his $800 monthly Social security check.
Ms. Vander Veer reported, "This client, I believe, needs a lot of help in organizing his bills and financial paperwork. He states that the disorganization causes him a lot of "stress and depression." When administering the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) he scored a 10 out of 15, 15 being the highest level of depression."
She spent the day cleaning off his desk including opening mail and helping Mr. D to develop organization skills and systems that worked for him. After they finished opening all of his mail, she wiped the desk down with Windex. This one success, having a clean and organized space helped motivate him to start working on other tasks, which had previously seemed impossible. Today Mr. D opens and organizes his mail, uses a bill payment plan and is working with his reverse mortgage lender to pay off the back taxes he owes.
Recently, Ms. Vander Veer retested the client using the same depression scale as she had done before. The new score was 4, meaning he showed no or few symptoms of depression. Together with the support of his case manager, Mr. D is better prepared to face his financial challenges and make sustainable changes that will prevent him from going into default again.
Mr. Parsons has known how good life can get. He also knows how tough it can be - that's when we met him. A retired investment banker, Mr. Parsons never expected to have to ask for help. But when he needed it, he called 2-1-1 and was connected to the Care for Elders' Access Network. Through the Network he received case management services and support from the Flexible Funding Pool that allowed him to have critical dental work done; he also received assistance from our Field Specialist with enrolling in utility programs. Meet Mr. Parsons in the video below, he can tell you how Care for Elders helped him when it mattered most.
Ms. M is alive. After losing her job, things had gone from bad to worse. In order to make ends meet, she had used a payday lender to cover a $400 car expense so she could go back to work as a home care attendant. Over a period of three months, Ms. M paid a whopping $1,600 in interest but was not able to afford paying the original $1,200 loan. The lender would call three times a day, wanting the loan payment.
With an eviction notice and stacks of unpaid bills before her, Ms. M picked up the phone and dialed 2-1-1 for help. The elder care expert she spoke to found an older adult in an unfortunate and yet, common situation. Ms. M lived on the edge of financial stability in the best of times, but losing her job pushed her into crisis.
Ms. M was connected with Access Network partner Sheltering Arms Senior Services for case management services. Upon initial assessment, the case manager found Ms. M in an apartment with no heat or lights, and using an ice chest as a refrigerator. She was living without food or needed medications and doctor's visits. Ms. M's family was struggling as much as she was or even more; leaving her alone, depressed and worried about her future.
The case manager began arranging and coordinating services for Ms. M and worked with her to access new housing, health care and social services. The case manager also partnered with Adult Protective Services to address Ms. M's looming eviction. Care for Elders' field specialist delivered food and medication to Ms. M; helped her complete applications for utility assistance, food stamps and housing; and advocated for her rights with the predatory payday lender.
"Mama" is what the couple Ms. M moved in with calls her. It is an affordable and safe rental house, with lights on and food in the new refrigerator, purchased through Care for Elders' Flexible Funding Pool. Ms. M started a new part-time job and proudly, can pay her bills. Ms. M's story reflects the impact of coordinated services, committed professionals and flexible funds on a deadly situation; her success is our story.
Ms. Greene is 64 years old, lives alone, and is diabetic. She called 211 when facing eviction from her apartment. She was immediately connected to a Care for Elders Enhanced I&R Specialist who identified multiple needs and referred her to Jewish Family Service, one of the Access Network partners providing case management services.
Ms. Greene did not have sufficient funds for rent because of an error made by Social Security in the premium deducted from her monthly Social Security check for her Medicare-QMB. She needed help resolving the billing error and the subsequent financial problems it created over a two-month period, i.e. her ability to pay rent, utilities, purchase food and other necessary items.
As a partner in Care for Elders Access Network, Jewish Family Service was able to coordinate a variety of community resources that provided emergency food for Ms. Greene. However, it was only because of CFE's Flexible Funding Pool that Ms. Greene was able to pay her rent and avoid eviction from her apartment, plus purchase other critical, non-food items.
Ms. Jones is a fragile 82 year old female who has experienced poverty first hand. She is a very friendly and sweet woman who writes poems and loves to recite these poems to the case manager on each visit. The client stated that she has written these poems since she was young and has many volumes of her creative work.
Living on a very limited income and receiving minimal assistance with food stamps, Ms. Jones basic life style has become one of survival. The client is also receiving additional stress because her daughter is now living with her and is unemployed. At the initial home visit to Ms. Jones, the case manager discovered that she was very low on food and needed assistance in getting her electric bill paid on time. In addition, she had recently had to go to the apartment manager to request financial arrangements in paying her rent, due to her high electric and gas bills.
The client was in great fear of being evicted - she had always kept her finances in order. She was worried that her bills were getting out of control. The case manager helped her through her anxiety by letting her know that Sheltering Arms had a utility assistance program that could assist her with her utility bills. After submission of the documentation to the Sheltering Arms CEAP program, the client received a substantial amount of funds toward her electric bills. The case manager also, with Ms. Jones' permission, spoke with the apartment manager to let her know that it was very nice of her to help the client not be evicted.
Ms. Jones was greatly relieved that she had found an agency that could help her with her financial issues. With assistance with her electric bills, she was able to use her money toward other critical things like food, clothes, and other daily necessities.