Monday, October 10, 2016

On the Road Again – with the Help of Austin Street Center and the MDHA Flex Fund

An effective homeless response system is one where we always ask, “What solutions best match the needs of this person or household, and will end their homelessness quickly and permanently?" In asking this open-ended question, we acknowledge that a one-size-fits-all approach to homelessness is never the right one. Solutions must match the needs of the person, more than one solution might be needed, and a progressively “lighter touch” should be preferred.

Sometimes, the answer to that question is simpler than you might think.  Take Leonard (name changed to protect his privacy), for instance, an Austin Street Center guest. Though experiencing homelessness, Leonard is a healthy 58 year old, who has made his living driving a truck. Unemployed, homelessness for this road warrior was just a bump in the road. With the help of Austin Street Center’s job program, E2, Leonard was ready to get back on the road, figuratively and literally!
An “inside look” at Austin Street Center
(Courtesy of Austin Street Center)
As you may know, they don’t just let every Tom, Dick and Harry drive a truck, or as it is technically referred to a Commercial Motor Vehicle or CMV.  The Federal Government requires that one have “a higher level of knowledge, experience, skills, and physical abilities than that (sic) required to drive a non-commercial vehicle.” Every truck driver must obtain and maintain a Commercial Driver's License or CDL. Now, though the Federal Government makes the rules, it does not issue the licenses. That is left to the states, and one must obtain one’s license from one’s state of residence. As Leonard’s CDL was from Florida, he could not use it, and so could not begin looking for a job, that could then help him resolve his homelessness. 

Fortunately, Leonard could transfer his CDL from Florida to Texas. However, because of the higher standards involved in maintaining a CDL, he would have to undergo a full Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination by a physician. The cost of the examination is $60, which Leonard did not have. If you think about it, this is the classic example of a Catch 22. If Leonard had a job, he could probably afford the $60 examination. But, of course, he couldn’t even begin looking for a job, if he didn’t have the Texas CDL. He was stuck!

Leonard explained his situation to Dulari, an Austin Street Center program manager. She told him that though Austin Street Center could not pay for the DOT examination, she did have another tool in her tool box, that could help her quickly resolve this predicament – the MDHA Flex Fund. The MDHA Flex Fund was designed by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas to address minor but impactful expenditures, just like this one, that can help clients resolve their homelessness.

Dulari helped Leonard find a physician who could perform the examination, and issue the necessary documents. The physician’s office manager made Leonard an appointment, and sent over a confirmation email, including the $60 cost. Dulari then pulled up a simple one page form, available in the guidebook on MDHA’s website. On the form she explained how this expenditure would help Leonard, and she certified that there was no existing resource, that could pay for it. She ran all of this by her supervisor, Laura, they both signed the form, and submitted it to Shavon, at MDHA, for approval. Shavon reviewed all of the details of Leonard’s case, approved the request, and asked Wayne, at MDHA, to issue a check written out to the specific physician, who would perform the examination. Dulari was then able to pick up the check, and give it to Leonard, to take to his appointment. (The MDHA Flex Fund never hands over cash to a client or a case manager.) Leonard was able to transfer his CDL, and embark on his job search. He was now one step closer, much closer, in fact, to resolving his homelessness and becoming once again self-sufficient.
Laura, one of Austin Street Center’s “Superheroes”
(Courtesy of Austin Street Center)
And, in getting Leonard the help he needs, Dulari and Laura not only helped Leonard. Once Leonard has a steady paycheck, he will be able to move into an apartment, leaving Austin Street Center behind. This will enable Austin Street Center, who is forced to turn folks away every night, due to lack of space, to take in and help one more person. And all of that, for just $60. Not a bad return on investment… 

No comments:

Post a Comment