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Project Permanency helps families overcome struggles

In December, ParentMap announced its "Giving Together " campaign benefiting Family Services, a nonprofit agency in King County committed to strengthening families and creating a safer community. This month, we profile Project Permanency.

When her husband died after a long illness, Debbie, a 45-year-old mother, and her daughters, ages 18 and 8, were left with a stack of medical bills they could not pay. In addition, Debbie herself suffered from chronic pain caused by severe arthritis and fibromyalgia; she lost her waitress job because of her health problems and the depression that was exacerbated by her circumstances.

Denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), she went on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. At first, Debbie and her girls moved in with a neighbor, but when the neighbor moved to another city they could not afford to pay the entire rent.

Initially, Debbie was referred to Family Services' Transitional Assistance program. Upon entering, the family was given emergency family shelter and food vouchers. Debbie began working with a case manager to create a plan to regain self-sufficiency. Despite her pain, Debbie followed her care plan; her youngest daughter was enrolled at First Place while the older daughter participated in Job Corps training. Due to a lack of shelter capacity and Debbie's chronic medical concerns, the family had problems getting into a family shelter. A Family Services case manager helped Debbie coordinate her medical care and apply for subsidized housing.

About one month later, Debbie and her daughters were accepted into Project Permanency, which covered move-in costs, allowing the family to get its belongings out of storage.

After moving in, the case manager helped Debbie contact an attorney to appeal the SSDI denial. She was also linked to dental services and was fitted for new dentures. And she began physical therapy at the Pain Management Center at University of Washington.

Debbie has benefited greatly from the case manager support. She has managed her budget carefully, paid off her outstanding debts and was even able to clean her credit report. Recently the family got more good news as Debbie won her SSDI appeal, including back payments. "The staff heard me and my family's needs in a very non-judgmental, affirming way. They helped keep us off the streets and put us back on track," Debbie says. She and her family continue to live in a Project Permanency housing unit and work with their case manager to further improve their stability. Debbie is saving for a car and hopes to move into permanent housing in the near future.

Family Services' Project Permanency is an innovative public/private model for national best practice in the efforts to end homelessness. The model links comprehensive case management with affordable housing, so families get the key support services that they need to address the barriers keeping them from long-term housing stability. For information on volunteering time or donating clothing, contact Steve Winter at 206-826-3039 or swinter@family-services.org.

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