At 75 years old, Vietnam War veteran James suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had been deemed "difficult to work with" by his previous case managers. Despite that fact, all it took was one person's determination to get James housed.
On Sept. 11, 2020, Brandon Scoggan, a Problem-Solving Specialist working with Valley Oasis, met with James at the Springhill Suites, a Project Roomkey (PRK) site. He noticed James had a speech impediment, which made him a bit difficult to understand.
He opened the conversation by thanking James for his service, creating a comfortable atmosphere that inspired him to tell some of his war stories. James took great pride in his time in the military, where he served as a boat driver, charged with carrying his fellow soldiers back to the mainland.
James also shared that he was renting a house with his daughter but was forced to the streets after a falling out in 2016. He lived in his truck for four years before being admitted into a PRK motel. Brandon was shocked to learn that James was receiving $3,500 a month from his General Motors pension in addition to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). With this money, he hoped to move into the nearby Mayflower Gardens Retirement Village, but he admitted that he did not know how to fill out the application.
With Brandon's help, James prepared to apply to Mayflower Gardens and realized he needed to get him document ready, pushing past many hurdles to obtain these essential documents.
The day before James's application appointment with Mayflower Gardens, James called Brandon confessing that his wallet containing his social security card had been stolen. Brandon negotiated with the complex manager and struck a deal— if they could obtain a replacement card within seven days, they could proceed with the application process. They also required a holding fee, which Brandon was able to cover using flex funds.
The clock was ticking, but everything seemed fine – the management staff expressed excitement for James to have housing after so long finally. However, while processing his application, they called Brandon to say that due to a company policy, they needed his social security card or proof of application by the end of the day, or they had to move on to the next applicant.
Shock. Agitation. Many feelings ran through James and Brandon, but there was nothing else to do but try. Brandon called the Social Security Insurance number and asked to speak to a supervisor. He explained that James was a homeless veteran who was about to lose out on a housing opportunity if he doesn't get a replacement card. After being put on hold for a few minutes, the supervisor agreed to make an exception and called James via Facetime to confirm his identity.
Things were looking up once again! With proof of application from the SSI office, the Mayflower Gardens manager accepted the application, shocked at the lengths Brandon went to to help James. The manager proceeded to have James sign a conditional lease with a move-in date of October 14, 2020. This news brought him to tears of joy.
Spirits were high until Brandon received a rejection email due to derogatory marks on James's credit score. To find out what was wrong, Brandon helped James get a credit report the following day and discovered that he had defaulted on a $6,000 loan in 2017. James explained that he had to take out the loan to survive while living in his truck. Brandon sent over an extensive appeal letter to the management office, explaining that James was a veteran who needed that loan to survive. At the same time, he would be provided case management to ensure he pays rent on time. With the appeal sent, all they could do was wait.
A few weeks passed before Brandon received news from the management company. The appeal was approved, and James could move-in in two days under the condition that he provides the physical social security card by the end of the day.
James called his ex-wife, asking if his card had come in. His ex-wife said yes, but she had no way of getting it to him the same day. They ended up calling his daughter, whom he had fallen out of touch with. Miraculously, she was willing to bring the card to the PRK site. Brandon utilized Problem-Solving flex funds for James' move-in costs, and after a rollercoaster of events, he finally signed his lease and moved into his new apartment.
James signing his application - image courtesy of Brandon Scoggan
James holding the keys to his apartment - image courtesy of Brandon Scoggan
Many of our proud warriors fall through the cracks once they return home. Nationwide, there are about 37,000 unhoused veterans, with 3,800 right here in Los Angeles. Some folks have difficulty retaining employment or housing due to mental health issues just like James, which plays a large part in veering them toward homelessness. The VA estimates that that 30% of James’s fellow compatriots who fought in Vietnam suffer from PTSD, much like James.
As we continue our work to combat homelessness in Los Angeles, let’s acknowledge our veterans and keep in mind our Trauma-Informed Care practices when interfacing with them. Please take a moment to read this overview from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, highlighting five facts about veterans’ homelessness.
IMAGINE HOW MANY MORE VETERANS COULD BE HOUSED THROUGH PROBLEM-SOLVING CONVERSATIONS
COVID Relief funds are still are available for Problem-Solving interventions, through December 20, 2020. With this relief funding, COVID-vulnerable households may be assisted with up to two full months of move-in assistance to resolve their homelessness. If you haven't already done so, sign up and complete the Problem-Solving training on your own time, in the privacy of your own home, to take advantage of this emergency resource.
The Problem-Solving training is a prerequisite to obtaining access to LAHSA's centralized Problem-Solving Assistance Funds.