My Uncle Is About to Be Homeless in Tempe, AZ
November 30, 2017 1:05 PM   Subscribe

My uncle has schizoaffective disorder and has been unable to work for many years. He is medicated, but has severe memory issues and has occasional breaks with reality, mostly in the form of hearing highly negative voices. Up until 2 years ago he was supported by his wife, at which point she divorced him and moved out of the state. Since then he has gone through various government programs in the state of Arizona, and has unfortunately has come out the other end without any housing assistance. Last week he attempted suicide. Tomorrow he is going to be homeless.

Nobody in the family is able to take him in at this point. My mother has been working with him to navigate the homeless shelters in Tempe for the next few days, but the long-term situation is pretty grim. He has no attachments to Tempe and would be open to relocation, either in-state or out of state. I'm a little disconnected from the details of what programs he's been though, but my mother feels like she's exhausted the government programs available to him, though continues to try to get him on Social Security Disability Insurance. At this point he doesn't have it, however.

I would be able to provide limited financial assistance, but not nearly enough to pay a monthly rent. At this point, I'm a little lost for what I'm able to do from another state if anything. I believe he has access to food, but if I'm incorrect about that I'd be open to hearing suggestions on how I could give him easy access to food without simply putting money into a bank account or on a charge card for him, as he isn't financially responsible.

I'm open to any suggestions, including hearing more about programs what he may be able to apply to - maybe there's something my mom doesn't know about or hasn't tried yet.

Thank you!
posted by gregoryg to Human Relations (11 answers total)
Is he a danger to himself or others (unfortunately, this usually means "immediate" danger) and/or is he willing to enter a psychiatric treatment program? If your mother hasn't already covered this tack, this might open up some options.
posted by she's not there at 1:20 PM on November 30, 2017

E.g., the suicide attempt might buy him a week or so in a hospital.

Not a solution, obviously, but it could buy you all some time, as well as access to people who may know of other services.
posted by she's not there at 1:24 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: He's not an immediate danger to others, but this past week he has been in the hospital undergoing psychiatric evaluation. Tomorrow is when he gets out. I don't know the details, but my mother says that his suicide attempt made the situation worse. I'm speaking with her later tonight to get more details.

Also, I forgot to mention that none of the other family members live in Arizona, nor any nearby state. He has no friends or other personal connections in the state.
posted by gregoryg at 1:28 PM on November 30, 2017

See if there are any advocates in the hospital - social workers, discharge planners - who would be willing to work with your uncle and his family. Are they planning on discharging him to the street? Can they discharge him to respite care, like Circle the City (which is in Phoenix but might be worth a try).

The website A Place for Mom might help: Respite care in Tempe, AZ

The Arizona Department of Aging and Disability Services might also be of help.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:36 PM on November 30, 2017

Arizona generally ranks pretty low in regards to access to mental health services, so him staying in Arizona might not be the best option.

If any other family members are willing to help, and give him a hand establishing residency in a state that does things better, this could change the equation pretty drastically. My wife has had family member that have had to move across state lines for similar reasons to receive treatment. It's a shitty situation to be in, and no states handle this stuff super well, but some states handle it particularly shitty.
posted by furnace.heart at 1:38 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Contact NAMI Arizona. There is a personal contact there who looks like an excellent resource.

Is your uncle a veteran? If so, try local veterans affairs.

Good luck!
posted by pammeke at 1:40 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

He needs a social security attorney, like, now. Someone who is up for working with the hospital and getting his treatment records. Use the NOSSCR referral service, they will help you get him an attorney who practices in this field in his area. You will need to work with the attorney to gather up his medical records. Once the attorney has them, they can see about getting him granted on an emergency basis, as in, because his financial situation is directly dangerous to his immediate physical safety.

Note: I am an attorney, I am not your attorney, I used to be a NOSSCR member and am still in disability law, I have never practiced related to Social Security in Arizona. NOSSCR is quite solid and will get you someone who specializes. I personally gain nothing from this referral other than, you know, caring about people with disabilities.

NOSSCR is the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:44 PM on November 30, 2017 [17 favorites]

On the not-immediately-going-hungry front, many grocery stores sell giftcards, including electronic ones. You obviously can't stop him from reselling them for cigarettes or whatever, but it's a bit more regimented than just putting money in an account.
posted by praemunire at 1:47 PM on November 30, 2017

I don't know the specifics of Arizona but I have seen many similar situations to this in my work. I'm really sorry this is happening and I applaud your wanting to help. Know that this is a failure of our system and our politics. In some countries people disabled by mental illness have a meaningful safety net that keeps them housed and in medical care. We do not.

Here are some long term solutions that might be good approaches:

- Ask Uncle to move to same town as a family member who is willing to have some level of involvement
- Attempt to connect him with mental health services in that community. There is some kind of coordinated county or city based system in major metropolitan areas. Perhaps an 800 number to call to refer him. In some states, this is integrated with the safety net physical healthcare system, in some states it's separate.
- Help him apply for SSI - it's a bit hard to navigate. There may be a local agency that does this for free - do some googling to find out.
- Seek a "Board and Care". These are informal settings where meals and sometimes med administration is provided and folks are otherwise fairly independent. It may be a shared room. Prices are generally lower than market rate rents.
- Consider having that local family member become your uncle's "payee". So whatever income he gets, from General Assistance or SSI or employment or whatever goes to that person, and they ensure all bills are paid before he is given whatever's left
- Look around for day programs for folks with mental illness. It helps if someone accompanies him there through the intake process so he's not on his own. Some day programs may offer on-site psychiatry or even med administration.

This is all long-term, big picture stuff. Know that you may not be able to stop this immediate crisis. He may become homeless for a little while. Consider this a long-term project.

Feel free to mefi mail me if you want to bounce specific ideas off someone.
posted by latkes at 2:48 PM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just so you know also, I work primarily with homeless adults, and although being homeless is indeed dangerous, there are food banks, soup kitchens, shelters etc. There is some infrastructure to keep people from literally starving. So again, you might best serve your uncle by using this moment to help him make long term changes rather than trying to get him something to eat tomorrow.
posted by latkes at 2:51 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hey there. I had a family member go through something almost exactly the same as this (attempted suicide, lost their housing situation due to the suicide attempt). We advocated for them to stay in the hospital until the hospital could find them long-term housing. We insisted a homeless shelter was not feasible due to the ongoing mental health issues. We refused to sign anything related to discharge from the hospital until housing had been found. We had to push really hard for a hospital social worker to take this case. Our family member ended up in the hospital for two months until this got resolved. They are now in low-income senior housing and doing better.

Is your uncle on Medicaid? If so, I believe there is a law that prevents hospitals from discharging Medicaid patients without at least a certain number of days notice. They cannot kick you out suddenly without this notice. If they try to, you should bring this up. We had to start throwing around the phrase "patient dumping" to really get the attention of the right people on this issue.

Good luck.
posted by joan_holloway at 4:13 PM on November 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

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