Portland resources for one with low income and serious illness
June 3, 2015 2:48 PM   Subscribe

Someone I know, who has practically no savings and no home, has just been informed that his biopsy was diagnosed to be melanoma at an alarming stage. Could you please point me to any cancer/low-income/housing resources in Portland, OR?

The doctor on the phone implied that he must get treated as soon as possible or it may be a matter of "months" to live. He is now unemployed, has very little savings, maybe a few hundred, and no place to stay. My main question is:
- Are there any subsidized/city/government/charity housing options for those who are below poverty line considering that he is seriously ill?

Comments/suggestions about the following are welcomed too:
- How does Oregon Health Plan coverage work for cancer? Will he have to pay part of the bills?Will he get all the attention/priority he needs?
- Other than SNAP, what aid programs should he consider applying for?

Please assume this person has no friends or family he could stay with.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ronald McDonald house?
Talk to a social worker from the hospital? (Assuming he's connected to a hospital now.)
posted by Ms Vegetable at 3:15 PM on June 3, 2015

Hospital social worker would be a good start. Your friend is not the first person they've seen who is low-income and without resources, so the hospital social work department should have something of a clue.

Try contacting the American Cancer Society - they might have some leads. Here is a link.

Human Solutions looks to be a resource for low-income Portlanders.

I hope your friend can find some help.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:54 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are limited resources for homeless persons, though I am not aware of anything that is offered specifically in conjunction with treatment for cancer. In addition to talking to the hospital about anything they know of, here are a few places to check:
2-1-1 Info is a site that allows you to search for a variety of resources
The Portland Housing Bureau has a list of shelters and emergency resources
Central City Concern may have housing options available
If does appear that Home Forward allows applicants with a terminal illness and life expectancy of 12 months or less to apply for Section 8 priority. This page says to call 503.802.8333, Option 7 to apply.

Your friend should definitely apply for SNAP, as well as SSI or SSDI as soon as possible. If your friend may be eligible for anything else, like VA benefits, they should also apply for those ASAP-- these applications often take a long time to be processed, but sometimes they provide backpay to the application date--so, really, apply NOW.
posted by Kpele at 3:59 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have been on the street over three years, in California. Catholic Charities is one of the better organizations that has served me. Here is the link to Catholic Charities -- Portland. Call them. They have a lot of different programs. I used both their food closet and a women's services center. Initially, I did not realize the women's services center was one of their programs. What I took advantage of is just the tip of the iceberg. They do a lot of different things, including shelter programs, counseling and other stuff. Their food pantry program was extremely well done. I was impressed, and I really don't impress easily. I had lots of scathing criticism for some of the programs I tried out.

I would also call Portland Rescue Mission. They look like the type of organization I have found really helpful in the past, when I was first on the street, really sick and really destitute. Through a different organization that looks similar to me, I was able to talk to a lawyer for free, talk to someone about applying for disability, get lots of info about other available programs, get a local mailing address for free and other vital services.

Also, have him call 211. IIRC, he should be able to do this for free from any public phone and talk to a live operator about what he needs and get information about locally available programs. I called them once when I needed help getting my taxes filed for free at the last minute and they hooked me up.
posted by Michele in California at 5:07 PM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Street Roots puts out the Rose City Resource Guide twice a year. It would at the very least give you a good, free list of which organizations would have recommendations.
posted by aniola at 5:26 PM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also came to say that Street Roots publishes a small green booklet that you can pick up in the lobby of the library, it has extensive listings for medical services for the homeless and impoverished (as well as for other services). If you can't get to a library, memail me your address and I will send you a copy you can pass along to your friend.

Their website is offline due to maintenance, but they recommend on their front page to call 211.
posted by nanook at 6:05 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

The other thing is that with no income he will be able to enroll in medicaid(I'm not sure what oregon's actual program is called) right away, instead of having to wait for open enrollment. There should be essentially no copay involved- the point of the program is to cover those who don't have room in their budget for insurance or care. The hospital social worker will actively work to get him enrolled.
posted by rockindata at 6:39 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Disability Rights Oregon "works to advocate for necessary health care services, such as assistive technology and policy changes, including changes to the prioritized list of treatment conditions in the Oregon Health Plan," "provides information, referral and advocacy related to reasonable accommodations in housing" and "advocates for the rights of Social Security beneficiaries who have a representative payee."
posted by Little Dawn at 8:06 PM on June 3, 2015

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers links to a variety of resources, including searchable online directories of free and low-cost health care providers and programs for people with disabilities.

Portland links include Independent Living Resources (ILR) and the Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon (ADRC).
posted by Little Dawn at 9:29 PM on June 3, 2015

The idea of the hospital social worker is a good one. He (or you) can even call random hospital social workers if he isn't affiliated with a hospital. We did that when my friend was sick and even though it was off-label the social workers still tried to help us as they could.

The 18th Avenue Peace House offers housing to people with terminal illness.

For SSI/SSDI, considering his diagnosis, he may be able to get fast-tracked (something more like two weeks instead of the normal wait which can last forever). Have him call SSI/SSDI and say he's too ill to leave his house and that he has metastatic terminal melanoma. For SSI he needs to ask for a "compassionate allowance" and for SSDI he needs to ask to be put in the TERI program. Both mean "fast-track."

If your friend is comfortable with Chinese medicine, the Immune Enhancement Project on Hawthorne has a cancer program that is cheap (free if you are broke) and allows you to come in and get acupuncture, massage and herbs, with the needles 2X/week and the massage 2X/month, to help ameliorate symptoms of anxiety, chemo, etc. When my friend was very ill she got a lot of relief from her chemo symptoms there.

I'm sorry for you and your friend; I hope he finds the help he needs.
posted by feets at 1:33 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

There is a fast-track SSI/SSDI program for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness called SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) - I'm not sure about where to find SOAR caseworkers in Portland, but many of the resources listed on this thread (including hospital social workers) may be able to make specific referrals.
posted by Little Dawn at 7:11 AM on June 4, 2015

If it is possible, I would suggest your friend contact a major cancer center that specializes in melanoma. Such a place will be able to offer the latest treatment options and they have specialists who deal with both insurance and housing options. I have no idea if such treatment is possible under Medicare, but it would not hurt to ask.

There is currently an "expanded access" (no placebo arm) clinical trial for treatment of melanoma with immunotherapy, being run at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. The doctors involved in that study might be able to advocate for a qualified patient with limited resources. Calling there to set up a consultation appointment might be a good place to start.

SCCA also has financial counselors.
posted by pjenks at 7:30 AM on June 4, 2015

One of the things Catholic Charities did for me is they helped me apply for food stamps. At that time, I was really sick and the application process was just overwhelming. So they walked me through the application and helped me get it filled out. I will suggest you ask if they offer that service in Portland. If they do not, look for someone who does. The application can be pretty overwhelming if you are sick and in crisis.

When I applied for food stamps in California, the application asked if I needed health coverage. I don't know if that is standard in all states, but if it is pretty standard, getting him hooked up with assistance for filing for SNAP may also get him hooked up with whatever health coverage programs are available in Oregon. So getting him assistance in filing may kill two birds with one stone and jump start the process of getting him the care he needs.
posted by Michele in California at 9:21 AM on June 4, 2015

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