Current course:  SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Online Course: Adult Curriculum

Engaging the Person in the Application Process: Making a Connection

It is important to make a positive connection with the person applying for benefits. The application process can be a tool for engagement.

In the course of completing an application, a case manager must ask an applicant to provide very personal information about his or her life. This requires a great deal of trust on the part of the individual. A person who is experiencing homelessness and who is living with a mental illness may be distrustful of others. Case managers should strive to create a comfortable environment to help people feel safe.

Respect, choice & control

Always offer respect, choice, and control – people who are experiencing homelessness are often not offered these.
  • Meet the person on his or her own terms
  • Offer a handshake
  • Ask the person how he or she would like to be addressed
  • Offer concrete services
  • Bring food, drink, or other necessary items
Will: Sadly, people who are experiencing homelessness are rarely treated with humanity. I would recommend to case managers that they be very mindful of showing respect. Something as simple as offering a handshake – even if the person rejects your offer – or asking the person how he or she would like to be addressed provides evidence of your respect for them. Don’t make assumptions, and be polite.
Kristin: People who are experiencing homelessness are often told what to do. I try to demonstrate respect by meeting each person on his or her own terms. I also make an effort to let them make choices where possible and put them in charge. For example, ask when or where they would like to meet or offer things like food, drink or other necessary items.

Be trustworthy

Being trustworthy is key to engaging the person in the application process; delivering what was promised is critical.
  • Under promise and over deliver!
  • Offer what you can, provide it, and you will gain trust
Will: One of the most important things you can do to promote a trusting relationship is to do what you say you will. Don’t postpone meetings and follow through on anything you say you will do for the person. Don’t let a busy schedule lead you to disappoint. Be sure the person understands what you can and can’t do for them.