HAP’s SOAR Project is designed to quickly secure federal disability benefits for vulnerable men, women, and youth who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. These individuals are too sick to work and urgently need stable Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits.
In July 2007, HAP created the first SOAR Project in Pennsylvania. HAP partnered with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Disability Determination (BDD) to establish an expedited disability benefits application protocol for chronically homeless Philadelphians modeled after a federal initiative of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). HAP developed, and continues to administer, Philadelphia’s SOAR Project through which HAP rapidly secures SSI benefits for disabled homeless adults and youth. Many of HAP’s SOAR clients are disabled veterans who are either ineligible for VA benefits or are without income while navigating the slow VA claims process.
Since HAP’s first SOAR Project’s SSI application filing in late 2007, the Project has maintained a 98% approval rate while rapidly securing SSI benefits for more than 1,800 clients with an average of only 52 days from filing to determination. SSI claims for homeless individuals outside of the SOAR Project are approved only 10% to 15% of the time, which means most homeless claimants face an arduous appeal process that can take more than two years until a decision is reached – a wait during which the person, too sick to work, is trapped in homelessness, trying to survive with no income. HAP’s SOAR clients, on the other hand, quickly secure SSI benefits which enable them to resolve their homelessness by renting a room, qualifying for a supportive housing program, or moving in with a family member or friend now that they have some funds to contribute to the household.
In view of HAP’s success in resolving homelessness through its SOAR Project, HAP has expanded the Project as a means of preventing homelessness for particularly vulnerable populations. In 2009, HAP partnered with the Philadelphia Department of Human Services to expand SOAR for disabled youth transitioning from foster care and treatment facilities, thereby avoiding discharge to the streets. HAP further broadened SOAR’s scope as a tool for homelessness prevention when it launched a SOAR Re-entry program in 2013. With generous funding from the Samuel Fels Fund and the Barra Foundation, this program was designed to secure a stable income stream for disabled prisoners participating in Philadelphia’s Mental Health Court. SOAR representation is initiated “behind the walls” so that benefits can be activated upon prison release. Re-entry SOAR participants are able to obtain stable housing along with other supports, thereby decreasing the likelihood of recidivism.
For more information about HAP’s SOAR Project, please contact HAP’s Managing Attorney Michele Levy at [email protected].