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The goal of the Stewards INC is to help challenged individuals who are struggling with addictions, dementias, abusive relationships, declining mobility, mental challenges, and relational problems to live a more secure and meaningful life. The tool we use is the representative payee program of the Social Security Administration that requires budgeting of each beneficiary’s income so that their resources are not used in a personally destructive way, but in such a way they can realize the most abundant life possible.
While recognizing the intransigent nature of disabilities and challenges, the Senior Serve staff works to keep their services from making the beneficiaries more comfortable with poverty and dependence, and to make productivity and independence more achievable.
Stewards INC's services start, first, by budgeting with each beneficiary so the basics of housing, utilities, food, and clothing will be provided. At the same time, other bills are reviewed and payment arrangements are made. Second, by opening an individual fiduciary account at Wells Fargo bank so the beneficiary’s income can be received through direct deposit. Third, by following the agreed upon budget, staff generates the checks to pay rent and all bills for each person. A weekly check for food is made available. Fourth, when a beneficiary becomes too challenged to manage required paperwork, Senior Serve staff will take over this responsibility.
A primary service is to protect each beneficiary’s assets so their income is used for their needs. Often, children, adolescents, middle age adults, and seniors are abused as others try to take advantage of their income.
Stewards Inc, Igniting Hope, Inspiring Futures, is a faith based, California non-profit corporation that uses the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee Program to manage the income of individuals who are too challenged to appropriately use their government support income. SSA, SSI, VA are the three major sources of support included in this program. Stewards Inc presently manages the income of approximately 1,600 people.
PROCESS: - An individual receiving government support is required by Social Security to come under their Representative Payee Program when he/she endangers their own life, the life of another, or destroys public or private property. An individual is mandated to have a qualified Payee if the government income is not being used appropriately for housing and food and/or being misused for drugs and alcohol.
When a new beneficiary is assigned to Stewards Inc, an individual budget is created that includes all legitimate bills and needs. The priorities are housing, food, and clothing. Upon receiving the first check, an individual bank account is opened under the beneficiary’s social security number but with the CFO of Stewards Inc acting as the signer of the check.
Rents are paid directly to the landlord and food checks are provided weekly. If this money is misused, the checks are written directly to a grocery store and can be used only for food.
PURPOSE: - The first goal of the client representatives who work at Stewards Inc is to create hope. Hopelessness is the greatest detriment to a person living up to their maximum potential within their life circumstances. The integrity of the manner in which people are treated is the greatest key toward bringing hope. Hope leads people to create a better living situation.
The second goal is to be a deterrent to substance abuse by the beneficiary. Drugs and alcohol are often such a driving force in the life of those who are dual diagnosed with mental illness and drug abuse, that the use of these substances must be contained so that progress can be achieved in ameliorating their life situations. Stewards Inc cooperates with half-way houses and groups working with addictions. The disciplined guidance in the use of a person’s income is an immeasurable help to the other programs treating those in the habit of or addicted to substance abuse.
In 2008, Stewards Inc, on the average, took $5,750 per beneficiary out of the drug trade and fed it into the legitimate economy of the county. Over a year, working with 1,600 beneficiaries, this amounted to $9,200,000.
The third goal is to create a healthier lifestyle for each beneficiary. Guiding income so that it is used for housing and food helps create a more abundant lifestyle. On average, requiring an individual to be housed as a part of having their income managed will save a county $12,500 per year in police, jail, and hospital costs. Over a year, housing 1,600 beneficiaries has amounted to a savings of around $20,000,000.
Not only must individuals be helped to have a more abundant and productive life, but so must cities. The presence of the challenged will always be with us. The goal is not to hide them but to use the income, provided by the government, to provide for them. Not only is it better for the marginalized person, it is also better for the low rent motels and hotels that are available to house them. Stewards Inc guarantees the managers that rents will be paid for those living in their facilities. On the other hand, Stewards Inc requires landlords to refurbish their facilities appropriately if they want our beneficiaries to be their clients.
Desiring God’s best for each individual with whom we work, clients, Social Security staff, landlords and community vendors, we endeavor to be Christian Stewards of all we are given to manage, both with finances and human potential.
- Andrae Gonzales
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