Setting Goals to Success, Garland, Arkansas

By Lisa L. | Posted Tuesday December 27, 2011

Setting Goals to Success

A little over a year ago forty-three year old James worked as a truck driver and James’ thirty-five year old fiancé, America, had a position at Abilities Unlimited, a local nonprofit organization that provides persons with disabilities individualized opportunities including jobs. They had a vehicle, supported themselves and enjoyed cooking out, fishing and camping with friends. In November of 2010 all that changed when James found himself unable to drive due to auto-immune, kidney and ankle problems and America was laid off. A friend of the family who had used the Community Services Office’s services in the past referred them to us. The couple was struggling pay utility bills, keep food in the house and James had health issues both keeping him from finding work and creating medical bills he couldn’t afford to pay. America is dyslexic and has a 4th level mental handicap leading to a more limited job pool to apply to. They were overwhelmed with needs and didn’t know how or where to start seeking help.
C.S.O’s Emergency Services Department spoke with them first and referred them to the CSBG Case Worker who interviewed them further and explained how a prioritized, goal centered plan could aid them. They agreed and the following goals were created:
1.) Obtaining food
2.) Jim applying for disability
3.) Utility assistance
4.) Employment for America
5.) Budgeting
The most immediate need as well as the most easily available resource was food. C.S.O’s Food Pantry was open and the pair was assisted with filling out the application and obtaining two large bags of provisions along with a flier about the upcoming Commodities Distribution and a list of other Food Pantries in town. Groceries next to their chairs and plans for future nutrition needs met we set about the next task, James obtaining disability. We visited about his prognosis and his Doctor’s recommendation would support his application so he was provided the online website for Social Security Disability along with detailed instructions needed to apply. To address their utility bills, referrals were made to LiHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance) for electric and local churches, such as First Baptist, for the other utilities. A referral was made to the St. Vincent De Paul Society also which offers emergency aid to low-income individuals who have been in one residence for more than 6 months as James and America had been. A resource list was then given to America with the names and contact information of all eight temporary and temp-to-hire services in town with the recommendation that she apply with each for the best opportunity to find a job suited to her needs. The first visit was productive and with detailed, numbered goals they set off with “homework” in hand with visible signs of relief on their faces. They had a plan of action.

As weeks passed follow up calls were exchanged to check on progress and discuss roadblocks. America found a job with Keith-Smith at the Egg Plant and began working 25 to 35 hours per week. James applied for Medicare and Social Security Disability and also obtained a part time job delivering papers which was difficult with his health issues but America would often pitch in to get the work done. The duo applied for and received SNAP and LiHEAP which made them eligible for Assurance 16 Case Management so their case was transferred with their consent. Things were looking up until their transmission went out on their vehicle. America, determined to keep her position at the Egg Plant, purchased a $10 bicycle at a yard sale and started riding it the two miles to and from work each day. James was promised his job back once he was able to find transportation but did not have the funds to fix the transmission as they had been paying down debt incurred during the time they were unable to work. James managed to work out a payment plan with his brother on a small truck his brother wanted to sell and began delivering papers again. It wasn’t long before James’ illnesses caught up with him though and left him hospitalized. Recommendations were made by their C.S.O. case worker to speak with the hospital patient representative to discuss his lack of insurance and payment options. The pair was also reminded of the upcoming Commodities Distribution and we suggested they designate a person to pick up for them since America would be working and James was unable. This was completed and Commodities were supplied to them through their sister-in-law. James was released from the hospital a couple of weeks later and with America’s help, began delivering papers once more while awaiting his disability benefits.

Almost nine months after James and America fist came to C.S.O. James finally received his Social Security Disability benefits, including enough back pay to pay off debts; obtain reliable transportation and the peace of mind to be able to care for his health needs. America took over his paper route and with their financial troubles still fresh in her mind, she had a new appreciation for budgeting and making the most of every dollar they had. Due to their work schedules they missed the workshops offered on budgeting, smart shopping and energy conservation but fascinated by “Extreme Couponing” on T.V. she accepted the invitation to sign up to receive messages through the case workers Facebook site which posted local deals and coupon match-ups for clients and other members of the community to utilize and was soon creating her own stockpile and lowering their overall grocery bills. Ever thankful for the help they received James commented that “C.S.O. was there when we needed it most”, and that the Food Pantry, Commodities, LiHEAP, guidance and referrals “helped us to continue living in our home”. 

The Community Services Office offers many financial programs, such as LiHEAP, to benefit the public but having the funds available to offer case management to aid program participants in creating a plan and teaching prioritized goal setting can be key to getting families back on the track to self sufficiency. James and America said they will soon be planning their first cookout for the fall season. We’re invited.

Lisa Lockwood
Family Development Specialist
Community Services Office, Inc.
Hot Springs, AR

Tags: arkansas, hunger, unemployment
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