Case Management + Financial Assistance: A Formula for Success in Ending Homelessness

Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc. (CAC) provides a variety of housing and homelessness prevention programs. While these programs target different populations, they all have one thing in common—every program participant receives case management along with financial assistance. CAC has found this to be a very effective program model with populations including chronically homeless people with disabilities, struggling single parents, veterans facing homelessness, and Section 8 participants who are at risk of losing their housing

A myriad of issues can contribute to an individual or family becoming homeless or at risk of losing their housing. Often a complex combination of a lack of financial resources, a turn of bad luck, and disabling and/or chronic medical or mental health conditions leads to a household becoming homeless. In order to tackle these issues, CAC has found that while financial assistance helps to fill gaps temporarily, it does little by itself to help a household become more stable and resilient in the face of future challenges. 

A case management appointment at Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc.
A case management appointment at Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc.

 The following are some 2012 success stories from CAC’s services in Dane and Jefferson counties that illustrate the power of this program model:

     John is a single male with a disability who was living in transitional housing and was without income, health insurance, or any way to obtain his prescribed medication when he was referred to CAC. CAC accepted John into the Home for Good program, long-term, community-based housing for homeless persons with disabilities in Dane County. Along with his own apartment and basic furnishings, John received intensive case management. His caseworker helped him obtain needed supportive services including health care, BadgerCare, education assistance and other support to help increase his self-sufficiency.

Now John is attending weekly therapy sessions, has access to his prescribed medication and is one class away from completing his Bachelor’s degree at Madison College. John also has a part-time job and is able to pay a portion of his rent. He is currently on the waiting list for subsidized housing and looking forward to becoming fully self-sufficient.

     Jenny was a stay-at-home, middle class mom who was left homeless, with no income after fleeing an abusive relationship. She was in a homeless shelter while her three children stayed with their aunt until their mom was able to find suitable housing.

Jenny was referred to CAC’s Jefferson County office and accepted by the Transitional Housing Program (THP). She quickly regained custody of her children once she was in the apartment that THP provided. Within a month, Jenny found full-time employment that she continues today, at a factory doing assembly. Her oldest daughter enrolled in an alternative school and obtained her high school diploma and driver’s license. She was also able to secure full-time employment, while the two younger children adjusted well to a new school.

Jenny obtained a lawyer and filed for divorce, which was finalized midway through her year in THP. With help from the THP caseworker, Jenny’s family was able to qualify for BadgerCare, FoodShare, and child support (post-divorce). The caseworker also referred Jenny to a support group for domestic abuse survivors and counseling for the entire family. Jenny was able to graduate from THP and take over the lease for her apartment. She and her children have stayed in this apartment and continue to do well.

     JM was working full time and paying bills regularly until an accident caused him to not be able to work. He lost his job, fell behind on his rent and was facing eviction. JM came to CAC for help. He received financial assistance for back rent owed, and an ongoing rent subsidy until he could get on his feet. One of CAC’s Financial Services Specialists provided JM with budget counseling and helped him to complete his application for Social Security Disability Income and also apply for FoodShare benefits. While JM still has a tough road ahead to adjust to the new circumstances of his life, he was able to avoid homelessness and establish a foundation for the future.

     Sally, a mother of two daughters, ages 15 and 11, was referred to CAC’s Building Bridges program, which helps struggling Section 8 participants to maintain stable housing. Over the previous year, Sally had fallen behind with her water bill, her “family package” phone bill and cable TV. She was at risk of eviction as well as of having a large court judgment leveled against her. In addition to her Section 8 housing subsidy, Sally receives monthly Social Security Disability income and her family receives approximately $200 a month in FoodShare.

Upon her first two visits, Sally and her caseworker agreed that setting up a representative payee through the county for Sally would be a good idea. During the period before this service could be put in place, Sally’s caseworker worked with her landlord and phone and cable service provider to make a payment plan. CAC provided an initial payment for each bill and Sally made all future payments. During that same period, Sally and her caseworker made trips to local pantries to supplement the family’s FoodShare and to St. Vincent de Paul to complete their back-to-school shopping. They also spent time talking about parenting, priorities and budgeting. Over time Sally became more comfortable prioritizing the family’s long term financial well-being over short term desires.

Sally’s payee works with her now to assure all bills are paid monthly prior to other purchases. She has an affordable and practical phone package and her cable package has been trimmed as well. Sally is now feeling more in control of her life and hopes to find part-time work to widen her own interests and supplement her disability income during the coming year.

For further information about Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin and its programs, please visit www.cacscw.org or call (608) 246-4730.

Community Action Coalition for South Central WI, Inc. logo

Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin, Inc.
1717 N. Stoughton Road
Madison, WI 53704-2605
Ph. (608) 246-4730
Fax (608) 246-4760
http://www.cacscw.org