What a Disability Award Means for a Client

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“James” is client of the Health Advocacy Client who was recently awarded SSI benefits. This includes both a monthly payment and a larger award of back payments which will be paid out over several installments. As the Associate Director of Housing and Supportive Services at Hesed House, I act as his case manager.

James began staying at Hesed House in April 2012. He became a Lighthouse client in December 2014 which means that he lives in an apartment in the Aurora community as part of our long-term, permanent supportive living program.

When he was staying at Hesed, James was always getting sick because of his many health conditions. He is doing better now that he is staying in his own apartment. He even comes back and volunteers at Hesed when he physically can. Also, he’s very active in the Lighthouse community, especially by acting as a mentor for the younger residents which is beneficial for us as well.

One of James’s goals since I first met him when he started staying at Hesed was to pay off his many traffic tickets so that he could get his driver’s license back. Since he does not have a driver’s license, James has to rely on other people and public transportation. With his extreme health conditions, the reasons he was approved for disability, he has to see a lot of doctors and physical therapists. Relying on other people and public transportation to get to his appointments costs James a lot of money. Public transportation posed its own set of issues. Meals at Hesed are served at a set time and he would end up missing dinner because of how long the buses would take to get him back. At times, it seemed like James had to choose between his health or his sanity, and I don’t think anyone should ever have to make that choice. Once he gets his license back, it will be much easier to manage his health and his appointments.

The steady stream of income will be life-changing for James. He will be able to live a non-homeless life where he doesn’t have to worry about if the food pantry will have enough food for him. Now he will have money for groceries, especially fresh food, that will be more beneficial to his health. He’s also going to be able to afford cable, which is a big deal for him because he is a huge sports fan. He can be social and go out to eat now too. He can afford to buy laundry soap with the scents he wants, not just use the ones that are donated. These are things that people who are not homeless take for granted, but things that James has never had because of the uncertainty of his life.

I am so happy for James to finally be able to spend money, an ability he has never had before. However, he is worried about spending it in the right way since this is new for him, but I have assured him that I am willing to ease him into his new life. He finally feels like he is set on his path in life. James has a great support system here at Hesed between the case managers, staff, and other agencies, including the NIU Health Advocacy Clinic. It has been wonderful to see his life be completely changed for the better.


Hollie Nilles-Ohme, Associate Director of Housing and Supportive Services at Hesed House


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