HAP’s SOAR (SSI, Outreach, Access and Recovery) Project remains the surest and most efficient path to Supplemental Security Income (Federal Disability Benefits) for Philadelphians experiencing or facing homelessness. With an approval rating of 97 percent, we have secured benefits for over 2,300 people since starting our SOAR Project in December 2007.

Here’s why HAP’s SOAR Project in Philadelphia is so critical…

  • Disability doesn’t need to necessitate homelessness, yet a disproportionate number of people are homeless precisely because they suffer from chronic mental and physical illnesses that limit their ability to earn a living wage.
  • Although Pennsylvania once offered a modest cash assistance program meant to provide relief for no-income residents, that relief was terminated, leaving thousands unable to afford absolute basics, like copays, bus fare, and soap.
  • Without comprehensive safety nets, stable addresses or phones, people experiencing homelessness too often fall through the cracks of the complicated and confusing Social Security application process.
  • Nationally, claims submitted by those experiencing homelessness are approved less than 15% of the time, and those who appeal denials face an arduous, years-long process.
  • During that extraordinary wait, it’s all too common for claimants to fall out of treatment or experience a worsening of symptoms. All of this comes at an enormous cost to society, to say nothing of the devastating toll it takes on the person.

Recognizing that extraordinary problems call for extraordinary solutions, HAP strategically partnered with the Social Security Administration and Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Disability Determination to implement SOAR, an SSI application process, modeled on a federal initiative, designed to promptly and successfully address the unique and complex needs of homeless Philadelphians who are too sick to work.

To get a sense of the impact our SOAR Project has made in Philadelphia, just take a look at some numbers…

  • Since HAP implemented SOAR in 2007, we have obtained SSI or SSDI benefits for over 2,300 people.
  • In that time, we have sustained an application approval rate of 97% or better.
  • SOAR participants are generally approved within 60 days.
  • And we are gaining momentum: in 2019 alone, we secured $2,125,203 in benefits for over two hundred people, ushering them in a meaningful way out of homelessness and toward housing, stability, and wellness.

HAP is the first and only provider of SOAR in Philadelphia, so we want to make sure we are accessible to as many homeless Philadelphians as possible. In this spirit, and in order to expand our reach, we have formed partnerships with the Office of Homeless Services, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities Services, the Department of Human Services, JEVS and many other local Social Services agencies.

Each of these partnerships strategically targets a subset of Philadelphia’s homeless population. To list just a few…

  • Those experiencing chronic homelessness. Many such people have long been resistant to supports and the housing system, many of them due to severe mental illness. Through SOAR we have ended decade-long episodes of homelessness.
  • Youth who are transitioning out of the child welfare system. Too many young people transition to independence and fall straight into homelessness. For many, SOAR has been a safety net.
  • Children with extraordinary needs. It can be impossible to maintain employment with a disabled child. SOAR has provided enormous relief to such families.
  • Veterans. For many veterans who are let down by the VA despite their military service, SOAR has been there to fill that gap.
  • Participants of Mental Health Court and other Diversion Courts. HAP begins the SOAR process “behind the walls” to ensure benefits are in place prior to release from prison, not months or years afterward, greatly reducing rates of recidivism.
  • Persons whose mental illness co-occurs with a substance use disorder. Many claims are denied due to substance use, which in fact can be a common method of self-medicating mental health symptoms in the first place. In light of the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia, our help here matters now more than ever.

In recognition of all the work there is ahead, HAP remains open to expansion, with the guiding conviction that not one more person in Philadelphia ought to fall through the cracks.

For more information about HAP’s SOAR Project, please contact HAP’s Acting Executive Director/Managing Attorney Michele Levy at [email protected].