Navigating Health Care, Housing, and Social Security


Community Health Alliance provides care to our houseless community at our six health centers in Reno and Sparks, in addition to OUR Place, the largest emergency housing provider for women and families in our community, through our Mobile Medical Center.

Our staff not only helps the men, women, and families with medical needs, but employs community health workers and behavioral health staff to sort through the difficulties patients face.

One of our physician assistants helped “Scott” not only receive temporary housing but tackle a particularly tough issue that perhaps will help stabilize his future.

Scott lost his wife just three months ago. Together they were surviving off of her Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) income to pay for basic living expenses. Due to her death and no other income, Scott faced eviction and ultimately homelessness.

Although he had worked steadily for the vast majority of his life, Scott has been unable to either apply for widower’s benefits or start his own disability application due to an invalid identification card and social security number.

This problem started when Scott was a child. He does not remember his parents at all and, at the age of five, was put into the foster care system by a probation department in California. With each succeeding foster home, his name changed. The last one he remembers was in Pacific Beach, CA with the “Johnsons.” For the rest of his junior high/high school years, he went by Scott Johnson. At 17, he aged out of the foster care system and was given an envelope with two names in it for him. One was Scott Jones and the other was Leo Martinez. He was also given two birth certificates, one with each name on it.

In the meantime, visits to the Department of Motor Vehicles would end with alerts and holds on his ID applications. Due to incorrect social security numbers, visits to the Social Security Administration (SSA) office wouldn’t get him past the initial check-in booth.

Scott had thought he had two identities, but a visit to the SSA office determined there was another identity and Scott Jones, himself, was not in the system at all. The social security number he had been given as a foster child was never his. The wages he had earned all those years were assigned to someone else and he was left not knowing what his real name was and having no Social Security number at all.

After our staff placed calls to Los Angeles County and Fresno County, those agencies determined he is in fact legally Scott Jones. A subsequent visit to the social security office to explain the situation to several representatives helped him gain his own social security number from birth and a clean slate.

Soon after, his social security card arrived. He was then able to apply for an identification card. Even then he couldn’t believe he was in line to take his identification picture, saying, “I always dreamed of making it this far in the process.”

His challenges are not over yet. Scott is now faced with providing proof of his work earnings for all the years he has worked in order to apply for social security and disability benefits since all of his work history is attributed to a number that really wasn’t his.

With the help of the Community Based Case Management grant and City of Reno Flexible Housing Program, he has supportive housing for the next six months. However, those funds run out in six months and only cover housing, not living expenses. He can access some of Community Health Alliance’s patient needs funds to help. In the meantime, our community health workers are helping him navigate the Social Security process to get his disability approved in that window of time so that he can claim what he has earned.

Your help is such a relief for all our patients who are making strides to improve their health and life circumstances.

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