Inspiration Corporation was founded with the goal of fostering lasting, positive change in peoples’ lives. Today more than ever, we seek to recognize the needs of our participants and work with them to achieve their goals. This means truly knowing them and having a comprehensive understanding of their situation. Every case presents different challenges, as all people have had different experiences. Having a strong relationship with our participants makes it possible to serve them to the best of our abilities.
One recent case that made this abundantly clear was Harry H.
Harry’s Background: After leaving the military, Harry worked temporary jobs through an agency because he was unable to find steady, permanent employment. He fell into some hard times, lost his temp jobs, and became homeless. After being on the streets for over 25 years, Harry was referred to Inspiration Corporation through the Chicago Central Referral System (CRS), a centralized wait list that the city piloted in 2011 to try to make it easier for individuals in need of housing to apply to be served by the multitude of providers in the area who had historically each maintained their own wait lists. The CRS ranked individuals by their vulnerability, considering factors like physical or mental disabilities, history of homelessness, and/or presence of dependent children.
Due to his significant vulnerability factors, Harry’s name was selected from the CRS list for placement in our Short Term Support housing program (STS), which provides 24-months of housing assistance and is designed to help people get back on their feet after short periods of homelessness. In Harry’s case, the program was not a great fit due to his history of chronic homelessness and persistent health issues that make it difficult for him to work. These challenges will not go away with time, so at the end of two years, Harry would likely be in the same situation as he was before.
In the years since Harry was referred to us, the City of Chicago has restructured their wait list system again to keep the benefits of the CRS without the unforeseen negative impacts caused by improperly referring high-vulnerability individuals to programs more suited to people with fewer barriers to self-sufficiency.
Understanding that Harry’s odds of succeeding and having a successful transition out of supportive housing after two years were low, we conducted our intake, and our program staff began working diligently on a plan to find a permanent supportive housing solution for Harry after his 24-months.
Housing Situation: Harry applied for the Chicago Housing Authority section 8 housing program before coming to Inspiration. Harry was on the wait list for 14 years. This program would provide him with permanent assistance with his housing needs. His name came up while in the Short Term Supportive Housing. Although he had updated his address with the CHA, his letter was sent to the wrong place. By the time he received the letter, the time required to respond had lapsed, and Mr. H. lost his place. Harry reapplied and was denied due to a criminal background and credit check, despite having been approved in the past.
Case Management: Harry’s case manager, Raiki, worked diligently to get him back on the list and approved. She helped Harry file a grievance, and followed up with the CHA property manager over the next several months. She proved that his background hadn’t changed since the initial application, his last offense was an arrest and not a conviction (which bars CHA from denying him), and that his credit issues were resolved. After getting back on the list, Harry was given priority due to his veteran status. Despite this, his application with the property was denied. Raiki was able to rectify this situation by appealing to the CHA and advocating for Harry.
Harry did not have enough work credit to receive Social Security Disability Insurance. Raiki helped Harry secure need based income through SSI under the SOAR model, which is intended for adults who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and have a serious mental illness, medical impairment, and/or a co-occurring substance use disorder. Many people are not aware of what the Social Security Administration is looking for when they apply. The confusing and cumbersome paperwork mean that many times people get denied after their first application. Raiki was there to assist Harry with the process and make sure he received what he needed and was entitled to.
Due to his motivation, and thanks to Raiki’s hard work and help, Harry was able to attain permanent supportive housing in the CHA senior housing.
Where Harry is now: When asked what this new home means to him, Harry first jokes about how hard it is to keep his kids and grandchildren from coming over and eating his food. He said, “I’ll tell the front desk not to let them in unless they bring groceries.” Harry clearly cares about his family and enjoys having a space to host them. Beyond that, he enjoys having choices and freedom. Harry shared, “I get to eat when I want, cook when I want, cook what I want. I don’t have to worry about what the churches or shelters are serving.” He also takes great pride in his home: he shared that he made sure to sweep and get some spots off the floor before some Inspiration staff visited.
Inspiration Corporation: Without Raiki advocating for Harry, he very easily could have been passed over by the system. His STS would have expired, and Harry would have been on his own. Raiki took the time to get to know Harry, and worked to make sure he got the support he needed. They know each other well enough to joke about how Harry would always criticize her “grandma driving”, and Raiki got annoyed when Harry blasted the volume when Bruno Mars came on the radio. When case managers get to know the person rather than the need alone, they get the whole picture and are better able to meet the individual challenges that arise.
You have to know the people you are helping- they are people, not just numbers. It’s not just about getting people into programs; it’s about getting them into the right programs. Inspiration Corporation continually works to treat all our participants with dignity and respect, and approach them as humans with unique experiences.
When he first became involved with Inspiration Corporation, he “was tired of being wet, tired of being outside.” He recommends others reach out and let people know what they need. He appreciates everything he’s gotten. “Giving to Inspiration Corporation helps. Help someone improve their life.” Inspiration Corporation exists to help people like Harry get what they need. We hope to continue to be able to improve the lives of people all over Chicago.