North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness

NC SOAR Initiative

In order to transition people out of homelessness, we know that they will need affordable housing, access to appropriate services, and an adequate income.  For many North Carolinians who are homeless, working a full-time job is not an option because of some type of disability. 

For these people, federal disability benefits will be their ticket out of homelessness. Disability benefits, which include a monthly check and health insurance, can help individuals and families access affordable housing, needed healthcare, and mental health services, as well as provide some income to help pay for living expenses. In shelters across North Carolina, we see people hoping to receive disability benefits. They are often frustrated and confused by what can be a long, disappointing process.

National rates of approval for disability (SSI/SSDI) applications are approximately 35% for first-time applicants. Among the homeless population, however, the approval rates are significantly lower - closer to 15%, despite the high percentage of homeless people who are prominently disabled.

As caseworkers, we are often perplexed by the denials from disability. We can clearly see that a person has some sort of condition that renders them unable to work. So why can't Social Security see that? Do people really have to be denied three times? It just doesn't make any sense.

The truth is, applying for disability benefits can be a tough process. For people experiencing homelessness, it can prove even more difficult. Lack of access to a phone or an address and the transitory nature of homelessness make it difficult for SSA and DDS to communicate with applicant. Obtaining copies of records or even simple identification can be a struggle for a homeless person. Even the nature of one's disability may make it impossible to follow the process for applying for disability.  

But the real truth is, the process has seemed difficult because we have not understood how the process works. Until now.  

SAMHSA has contracted with Policy Research Associates to develop and facilitate a training called SOAR - SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery. Communities that have participated in the training and implemented the SOAR technology fully have had similar results, documenting up to 93% approval rates within 3 months for homeless people generally considered to be eligible, and 65% approval rates within 3 months for homeless persons who were thought by caseworkers to be on the cusp of meeting eligibility standards.

North Carolina has been a SOAR state since 2007. With over 500 caseworkers now trained through NC SOAR and 28 dedicated SOAR caseworker positions in our state, we are seeing results. To see where these dedicated SOAR caseworker positions are in the state, please view our caseworker map. (Volunteer and part-time SOAR positions indicate individuals who are doing a high volume of SOAR cases in addition to their full-time job duties.) 
NCCEH collects outcomes from North Carolina SOAR caseworkers to track the results of the applications they submit. Please see our SOAR outcomes webpage to see the results of SOAR in your community and the state.
If you have questions regarding SOAR in North Carolina and how you can be involved, check out our SOAR FAQ document that has the answers to many commonly asked questions. After reading the FAQ, if you have other questions, please email Emily Carmody or call (919) 755-4393.