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August 2019

Headshot of Kendra KuehnEmergency Client Housing: A Complicated Issue

by Andrew Capehart, APS TARC Staff

A call comes into your APS intake hotline on a Friday afternoon. An elderly woman was reported to the police by a neighbor as having been abandoned by her caregiver. The police are calling for help with the elderly woman, who appears severely neglected. She is confused and unable to respond to direct questions with any information about her health needs. There is no known contact information for the caregiver or other relatives.

The Challenge of Emergency Client Housing

If you’ve worked in adult protective services (APS) for any length of time, you are likely familiar with the scenario above. Many APS professionals have wrestled with having to locate emergency housing for a victim and faced a myriad of obstacles from care needs to regulations. Some examples of what makes locating emergency housing so difficult:

  • Regulations require a history and physical or specific medical testing. For clients who may not have seen a physician in many years, this is a major challenge.
  • Individuals with significant cognitive impairment may need not only medical care but specialty memory care as well, which often requires additional screening.
  • If APS programs have no funding for temporary emergency housing, locating such funding is often impossible.

Much of the challenge in securing emergency housing depends on the functioning level of the victim. Someone who has minimal or no care needs may be able to access services already available in the community from homeless to domestic violence shelters. It can help to know in advance if your local domestic violence shelter can take people with mobility limitations.

The victim of abandonment and neglect in the scenario this blog post begins with may represent the “worst case scenario.” When you have a victim that is unknown to your program and there are few to no collateral contacts to consult with, you have a very challenging situation.

Options for Emergency Client Housing

Your options for how to deal with emergency housing could vary quite a bit depending on where you live. Urban environments, often richer in resources, may have elder shelters in place. The Weinberg Center Shelter, operated by the Weinberg Center for Elder Justice in New York City is one such elder shelter. Located within a long-term care community, the Weinberg Center Shelter “serves clients 60 and older who do not have a safe place to live due to ongoing or imminent elder abuse.” The Weinberg Center for Elder Justice can even assist communities who are interested in establishing their own elder abuse shelter via their SPRiNG Alliance.

Rural communities may have more of a challenge. While you may have a domestic violence shelter in the area, it may not be appropriate for all circumstances. Victims of neglect or those with self-neglect issues may not be appropriate to send to such a shelter. If there are domestic violence issues, your local domestic violence shelter should always be the first option. For more about domestic violence shelters and older adults, read A Safe Place to Heal: Addressing the Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing Needs of Older Survivors of Abuse by staff at the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life.

Emergency shelters certainly do not address the elephant in the room – funding. Many APS programs do not have the funding to assist with emergency housing. The APS TARC recently sent a query out on our listerv about how programs arrange for and fund emergency housing for victims. Several individuals indicated there was no such funding available for their program. Others reported funding of various amounts that programs could access for services. Of course, such funding is not meant to pay for ongoing or permanent services and functions as a “bridge” until more permanent arrangements can be made, such as applications for Medicaid or subsidized housing, if appropriate. Some programs that do have funding have elected to arrange for agreements or contracts with extended care facilities, group homes, assisted livings, or even hotels in order to accommodate a wide range of housing, with applicable limits on the amount of time any one of those options can be used.

The APS TARC is always happy to assist with any issues your program may have around emergency client housing. Reach out to us any time if we can be of assistance.

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