2/23/2016 06:43:13 am
It can be frustrating to have conversations about money--for both our participants and us. We've probably all had a participant push back in these conversations and tell us, "It's my money!" They're right about that. So, we have to resist the urge to tell them what to do with their money. When we are a payee for a client, we explain that we are accountable for making sure their rent is paid, along with budgeting for food and medical expenses. Beyond that, they are free to choose how they spend their money. In my experience, it's been a strong tool for connecting with participants to be able to say to them, "You're right. It's your money and you get to decide what to do with it." I think that lets them know we're on the same page and that I respect their right to decide how their money gets spent.
In spite of that message, participants will limit how much information they give us about what they're doing with their money. I think it can be frustrating for us when we feel like our participants aren't being completely honest about where their money is going. The limited information also makes it much more difficult to get a complete picture about how to best support participant's effort to manage their money. As much as possible, we need to try not to take that personally and focus on the aspects of their budget that they will talk to us about. When participants are regularly running out of money at the end of the month and unable to pay for basic needs like food, it's most important to figure out what changes can be made to meet those needs. That may not require them spending more or less money. Some participants choose to make use of food pantries, soup kitchens, and meals provided at our resource center to free up additional money and close the gaps.
9/30/2016 05:43:10 pm
We have clients that choose to buy cars and have no car insurance or driver's license. Then the get caught and get tickets, have to go to court and have a lot of fines. The upkeep of the car, high risk insurance are expenses they cannot afford and maintain the cost of their housing. But they feel having a car is the answer to all of their problems. Even working through a budget, they do not understand the added expenses of a car. Nor the unnecessary cost driving without insurance and risks they are taking.
10/6/2016 09:12:51 am
Hey HousingFirst5, this is a tough situation. I totally understand wanting to have a car and the freedom that comes with it. Ultimately, we can't tell someone how to spend their money. It's in our control to make sure they are aware of the potential costs of maintaining a vehicle. It sounds like you're doing that by working through a budget which is great! But, we know that people don't necessarily change their behavior just because they're informed of the risks they're taking. Sometimes, it's not until they've suffered some of the natural consequences of driving without a license or insurance that they decide to change. I had one client whose car was towed before he decided the fees were too expensive to get it back. My other concern is the risk posed to other drivers on the road. When someone doesn't have insurance, that puts all the other drivers on the road at a greater risk. I'd be curious about what values are driving their desire to own a car. Have you (or others) had success with helping people make changes like not driving until they're insured or have a license?
10/3/2016 12:41:45 pm
We certainly have clients who spend their money before paying their rent portions. A problem we face is that often getting a client to agree with us on a budget requires rapport building that we simply haven't had time to do given our case loads (175 clients per CM). Even if we did, having time to follow-up seems unrealistic. Consequently, it seems like we constantly move people when they fail to pay rent. Either they are evicted or we try to move them to avoid eviction. The budgeting idea is great. We'll have to think creatively so that we can implement the concept in an effective way.
10/6/2016 09:25:49 am
Massive caseloads make it very hard to build relationships and keep up with day-to-day issue like budgeting. Strong housing first programs limit caseloads to 20 because of the challenges Housing First participants often face (limited income, co-occurring disorders, limited recent history of maintaining housing, etc). Assuming that many of your clients are facing similar issues, it makes sense to work closely with partner agencies who are providing support to communicate and divvy up tasks to make sure that budgeting is happening. The sooner the better because, as we know, an eviction or moving puts a lot of stress on the staff and participant alike.
10/4/2016 10:55:32 am
We have had clients who insist that they will pay rent on their own if given the chance. We try to respect the client's choice of having a representative payee or not but many of these clients have lost housing numerous times because of nonpayment of rent. We have settled on giving clients the chance to pay their own rent but if they miss one month we apply for a payee. We make this agreement with clients prior to move in.
10/6/2016 09:34:14 am
There's a balancing act going on here. We want people to be independent and we value their preferences. But, we are also focused on keeping them housed. Depending on the landlord, they may be considering eviction after only one month of missed rent. Hopefully, our landlords are a little more flexible or if a program is the lease-holder, they can give more leeway (up to 3-6 months of missed rent) to the client since the landlord is still being paid. I think it's great that you have this conversation at the outset so that people know what to expect! I'm curious, have you ever gotten into a situation where a person fell behind in rent by one month but was able to make it up on their own without your program becoming their payee?
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Gail's Participant Example
Money Management And Budgeting
Working With Landlords