Friday, February 10, 2012

Fictional Friday: Samuel

Concerned neighbors occasionally call my office to inquire about what help might be available for someone who lives in their neighborhood. On this particular day an elderly couple come into the agency for which I work and asked about finding services for a young man they had recently befriended. He lives in a small farming community a few miles away. Samuel is in his early 20's, and according to the older couple, has no means to support himself. The elderly couple own a farm in the country with several animals, including horses. They occasionally pay Samuel to clean out their horse stables and to occasionally mend minor things around their property. The elderly couple are very concerned for Samuel, and say that he is a hard worker, but is seriously impoverished and has limited skills. They are not sure of his disability, but state he has difficulty learning and has limited reading and writing skills.

Later, after a series of phone calls with the elderly couple, I finally meet with Samuel. He lives in a trailer with some acquaintances, but has no ability to pay them rent and will soon be homeless. He has no telephone, and relies on the generosity of others for meeting his bare necessities. Samuel is a thin fellow, has bright blue eyes and black hair in desperate need of a hair cut, although his ball-cap covers up most of it. Today he is wearing a red flannel shirt, boots, and very worn blue jeans. His hands are rough looking, dirty and calloused. Samuel is a quiet young man, but friendly and very polite. He is nervous around new people, and has difficulty providing basic information about his youth and background. He apparently is good with his hands and says that he is willing to do any kind of job to make to some money. Samuel's parents recently moved to a city on the other end of the state to be with an ailing grandparent. Samuel is not able to live with them for a variety of reasons. His parents live on disability checks, and essentially, do not have the resources to take him into their small apartment.

After getting some information from Samuel, I talk with him about the Medicaid waiver program and Vocational Rehabilitation. Samuel reluctantly admits to having learning difficulties. I explain to Samuel that it's natural to for people to not want to acknowledge barriers to employment and independence, but if he truly has a disability we must be able to explain why getting some help with employment and assistance with his daily living needs would make a difference in his life. I also explain the huge wait list for the Waiver program and told him that if he were to be found eligible, he would probably be on the wait list for 10 to 12 years before he would receive any services.

I learn that Samuel had been in Special Education and had quit school in middle school. He doesn't remember the last time he seen a doctor or a dentist, although he remembers seeing an ER doctor a few years back for the flu. Samuel seems to fall in the mild to very moderate range of intellectual disability. He has limited social skills, deficits in basic daily living skills and significant barriers to economic self-sufficiency. Fortunately, Samuel will probably be able to receive some vocational assistance. However, it is highly likely that the State of Indiana will not find Samuel eligible for any of the Medicaid waiver programs. He is just high enough functioning that he probably will not meet the all the necessary criteria in the various categories of basic daily living.

It's these kinds of situations that are extremely frustrating. What happens to people like Samuel? They fall through the cracks. They live in the margins of our communities. They are often exploited and fall victim to the unscrupulous and criminal elements of our society. They find themselves in vulnerable and scary situations. They sometimes become homeless (and homelessness is NOT considered an emergency situation, according to state bureaucrats). Samuel has true needs, but it's not considered severe enough---he is verbal, ambulatory, and has some skills. He happens to fall in that gray area of not being disabled enough to be found eligible for services, but yet doesn't possess the needed skills to be successful on his own. With the right supports he would undoubtedly flourish and excel. Samuel is motivated. He wants to work, and he wants to succeed. Samuel wants to gain the skills that will help him to become self-sufficient. All he needs is the opportunity, and a little bit of help to guide him in the right direction. But, like with many of the "Samuels" I meet, it just isn't going to happen.


Note: Samuel is a fictional character, based on a composite of real individuals. Composite characters who appear in my "Fictional Friday" posts are based on people with real stories, with particular details, names, and certain specific circumstances changed so as to protect privacy.  

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About Me

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I work for a Community-Based, Not-for-Profit agency. I have worked in the disability field for over twenty-five years. I am the father of two boys, and have been married to my teenage sweet-heart for 23 years. I live and work in the same town where I was born & raised.
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