Wednesday, November 10, 2010

In Indiana, state officials say they do consider homeless shelters an option for people with disabilities

From The Indy Channel:

INDIANAPOLIS -- A state employee is backing up some parents' claims that state workers were told that suggesting families leave severely disabled people at homeless shelters was a viable option.

The controversy first erupted last month when Becky Holladay, of Battle Ground, said a worker with the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services told her she could leave her 22-year-old son with epilepsy, autism and other conditions at a homeless shelter.

A concerned state employee, who spoke to 6News' Joanna Massee on a condition of anonymity, said they had been told by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration's Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services that homeless shelters are an option for families.

The worker also provided 6News with a document called a Discharge Plan, which is given to families that either don't qualify or choose not to receive services from the bureau.

The resources and contacts list includes a Homeless Initiative Program and references a list of homeless shelters.

"(It's) very, very disappointing that the state of Indiana would even list that as a resource and an alternative to families," said Kim Dodson, executive director of advocacy agency, The Arc.

FSSA officials have said that suggesting homeless shelters is against its policy. Spokesman Marcus Barlow defended the agency Tuesday.

"It's important to know what the discharge plan is," he said. "What that is, is when people come to our offices and they either don't meet our level of care, which means that they're not appropriate for our services, or they don't want our services at all, we give them a packet of resources available in their community."

When asked if the discharge plan refers people who don't qualify for services to homeless shelters, Barlow said, "Not at all."

The concerned employee also provided a transcript of an e-mail that they said was sent from their supervisors in regards to the homeless shelter controversy.

"Do not ever, ever, ever use the words homeless or homeless shelter," the e-mail reads. "Never refer families to The Arc, Julia Holloway (director of FSSA's Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services), the governor or their legislators."

Linda Hankins said her 29-year-old son, David, would have not received help had she not gone to the top.

"First of all, it's ludicrous," she said of the protocol. "That's the way families get answers."

But Barlow said the policy is meant to ensure employees do all they can to help families in need.

"We wanted to remind our employees when someone calls our office, it is their responsibility to take that phone call and try their best to find resources for that person and solve their problem," he said. "It's often discouraging for someone to call an office and get passed on to someone else and then get passed on to someone else."

Barlow said there are no documented cases of any FSSA employee suggesting a family resort to dropping a child off at a homeless shelter.

He said the concerned employee who contacted 6News is staying anonymous because they are lying.