They Just Wanted a Little Help

Steve called Open Hearth late on a Friday afternoon looking for just a little help with a hotel stay.  Steve, his wife Becky, and their son Alex were homeless and had been staying in hotels for the past several months.  Steve was employed and had been able to pay for their hotel rooms until he missed a week of work due to a death in the family.  He contacted St. Vincent de Paul Society, who referred him to Open Hearth.


Becky, a cancer survivor, had been receiving Social Security Disability benefits.  Due to an error, however, her benefits ended in 2013.  She appealed the discontinuation of benefits but was in the midst of a yearlong wait for a hearing.  Her upper palate, a large portion of her jaw, her salivary glands, and every tooth had been removed from her mouth.  She lives with a feeding tube and has to take medicine before drinking or eating anything.  Becky beat cancer but continues to live with profound medical fragility that affects every aspect of her daily life.

With her medical assistance denied, Becky could no longer afford the life-sustaining medication she needed.  Most of Steve’s paychecks were spent on purchasing what medication they could afford.  Becky had also not been able to see her oncologists or any specialists for medical care in a very long time.  She shared with Kristi, Gateway Program Coordinator for Open Hearth, that most days it was impossible for her to even get out of bed until her husband came home late in the afternoon.

Clearly, the family’s needs were great.  Kristi took on the role of case manager for them.  Through Open Hearth, they received four weeks of Gateway housing assistance.  During that time, the family’s most pertinent identified goals were accomplished.  When Kristi reviewed Becky’s medical assistance denial paperwork, she saw that the request for an appeal had to be submitted that day.  She immediately took action and she and Eric, Open Hearth’s executive director, contacted Legal Aid for legal counsel.  The appeal request was submitted that afternoon.

Legal Aid continued to work with the family, offering free legal representation to appeal Becky’s health insurance decision.  Kristi assisted Alex in submitting an application for food stamps and medical benefits and in referring the family to Handi-Crafters for ongoing case management.  Through Open Hearth’s partnership with the Ride for Health Initiative, she arranged for them to receive door-to-door taxi service to medical and social service appointments at no cost.

Flash-forward six months after Steve’s initial call to Open Hearth:  Becky is once-again receiving her entitled Social Security Disability benefits and her medical assistance has been reinstated.  The family has scheduled an appointment with Open Hearth’s Ashley Rhoads, who is the Financial Navigator for the United Way of Chester County Financial Stability Center.  They will work together to reduce their debt and increase assets so they can ultimately become stably housed and financially independent and secure. This family got “just a little help” because that was all they needed…