Elena arrived at our Mobile Citizen Rights and Health Center when it was stationed in Haifa. She came from a difficult background; though she was only 24, she was already divorced and a mother of a five-year-old daughter. In the not-so-distant past she had undergone physical abuse, which left her with chronic health problems. Her family had cut ties with her, and, as Elena told the center’s volunteer, she was on the brink of collapse.
Elena wanted to give herself and her daughter a clean start. She had come to our Mobile Center from Kiryat Shmona, Israel's northernmost city, hoping that we could help her get public housing. In the past, she had applied for eligibility for public housing, but had been denied due to the fact only families with three or more children who have been living on welfare benefits for a 24 month period are eligible for public housing. “I’m willing to move anywhere in Israel to get public housing,” she said, “I really need this to help me get back on my feet.” The staff at our Mobile Center prepared the necessary paperwork, and sent it to the public housing office near Haifa in Kiryat Bialik.
The request was denied, for the same reason as Elena’s previous request, on the grounds of ineligibility. Nevertheless, our staff persevered, and went in person to the housing offices to reason with the officials there. After two months of negotiations, Elena was notified that she was being granted a two-room apartment in a public housing complex near Haifa. “I’m so grateful to YEDID for all of their help,” Elena writes. “Finally, I can start getting my life back on track.”
The goal of YEDID's Mobile Citizen Rights and Health Center is to empower and strengthen residents like Elena of Israel's socioeconomic and geographic peripheries in the areas of health and social rights. The Center's objectives are to help clients navigate the national health system; to provide preventative medical services; and to supply information about legal rights and social benefits in the area of health care and other areas (such as housing and National Insurance, to name just two).
From the beginning of November 2013 through the beginning of February 2014, the Mobile Center provided 120 clients with rights counseling. The most prevalent subjects for which people turned to the center for non-health related issues during this period were issues concerning public housing and mortgages (32%), matters related to debt and repossessions (26%), and labor law problems (15%). Clients served included immigrants and veteran Israelis, Arabs and Jews.
The Mobile Center's plans for the coming months are to continue running Health Days, to recruit more volunteers with specific skills such as fluency in Arabic and Russian, and professional experience in relevant fields. Thanks to a generous donation, we will be able to increase the Mobile Center's operation from three to six times a week in the near future! An increase in days will allow us to access and assist more clients in Israel's underserved peripheries.
On behalf of YEDID's staff, volunteers, and clients, I thank our supporters for their partnership. The immediate and essential assistance that the center provides to individuals across the country could never happen without your help. Thank you so much!
The goal of YEDID's Mobile Citizen Rights and Health Center is to empower and strengthen residents of Israel's socioeconomic and geographic peripheries in the areas of health and social rights. The Center's objectives are to help its clients navigate the national health system; to provide preventative medical services; and to supply information about legal rights and social benefits in the area of health care and other areas (such as housing and National Insurance, to name just two).
From the beginning of November 2013 through the beginning of February 2014, the Mobile Center provided 127 clients with rights counseling. The most prevalent subjects for which people turned to the center for non-health related issues during this period were matters related to debt and repossessions (42%), issues concerning public housing (20%) and mortgages, and problems with the National Insurance Institute (12%). Clients served included immigrants and veteran Israelis, Arabs and Jews. The following story provides a recent example of YEDID's work.
Alex, a new immigrant from Russia, came to the Mobile Center while it was stationed in Carmiel; he was homeless, with no job or any sort of income. He spent every day wandering aimlessly around town, and spent each night at a different friend's house. This went on for five years.
Alex didn't understand Hebrew, and had no knowledge of his rights. A number of years ago he approached Welfare Services in Carmiel to try and better his situation. However, due to difficulties in communicating with him, Welfare Services dropped Alex's case, and Alex was left frustrated and despondent. However, when a friend told Alex about YEDID, he decided to approach us for assistance. We began by going with Alex to the Employment Bureau and helped him register there. At the same time, we accompanied him to the offices of the National Insurance Institute, the to apply for income support. Alex had to go through a complex bureaucratic process, and bring many certifications and affidavits, as a result of having an apartment under his name from the time of his marriage - we accompanied him and aided him throughout the entire process.
In a short amount of time, the application for income support was approved, and Alex began to receive his stipend on a regular basis. After years of wandering, Alex has begun to feel a sense of permanence. Today, Alex rents an apartment on his own, and is looking into Ulpan programs to learn Hebrew. Now that his financial situation has become more stable, he feels less pressured, and has even started talking to his friends about jobs that he's interested in.
The Mobile Center's plans for the coming months are to continue running Health Days, to recruit more volunteers with specific skills such as fluency in Arabic and Russian, and professional experience in relevant fields. Thanks to a generous donation, we are planning to increase the Mobile Center's operation from three to six times a week! An increase in days will allow us to access and assist more clients in Israel's underserved peripheries.
From the beginning of August through the end of October, 2013, the Mobile Center ran one Health Days in Haifa, serving a total of 20 clients. The Center also provided an additional 139 clients with rights counseling. The most prevalent subjects for which people turned to the center for non-health related issues during this period were matters related to debt and repossessions, issues concerning public housing and mortgages, and problems with the National Insurance Institute. Clients served included immigrants and veteran Israelis, Arabs and Jews. The following story provides a recent example of YEDID's work.
In August, when the Mobile Center was in Nazareth, a middle aged man named Sami arrived on referral from a social worker from the city's welfare office. Sami has no family, does not speak, read or write Hebrew, and depends on welfare benefits and rental assistance. Sami's absence of Hebrew skills and his lack of knowledge about his social rights had exacerbated his already difficult financial situation. He had debts that had been turned over to the National Agency for Debt Collection, totaling an astounding NIS 75,000. On top of this, because Sami was not clear about the procedure by which he was to make his debt repayments, he had made a fundamental procedural error (about which he was totally unaware), which had resulted in the seizing of funds from his account. With the help of a translator, YEDID's Mobile Center director, Irena, asked Sami to bring all the relevant documents and bank statements he had so that she could request that the National Agency for Debt Collection consolidate his files and declare him as a person of limited financial means. Incidentally, when Irena reviewed Sami's bank statements, she noticed that he had not received rental assistance for three months. Sami had not realized this because he did not know how to monitor his bank account. Irena contacted the housing offices responsible for providing rental assistance, and the clerks there admitted that the mistake had been theirs. They fixed the error and immediately transferred three months worth of retroactive rental assistance to Sami's account. A few weeks later, Irena received a response from the National Agency for Debt Collection stating that Sami had been declared a person of limited means and that they had reduced his monthly debt repayments. Irena met with Sami again and taught him how to properly manage his payments to the Agency so that his file does not get out of control, and also how to monitor his bank account to make sure that everything is going as it should. Sami now has more manageable debt repayments, and is empowered by the financial literacy that he acquired to exercise more control over his bank account.
YEDID's Mobile Rights and Health Center is a van divided into two sections, a Citizen Rights Center and a Health Center. The mobile team consists of a YEDID staff member or volunteer together with a health professional. By combining a Citizen Rights Center with a Health Center, the unit provides a response to both medical and social problems. A YEDID director on board ensures that clients are aware of their social and economic rights, and a health professional carries out routine health checks and screenings for various illnesses. By providing holistic healthcare and outreach to low-income and underserved people, and by working with respect and dignity, the mobile unit staff earns clients' trust and empowers the latter to become more active in their own healthcare.
The Mobile Center is a cost-effective way to serve a broad social and geographical range, and to collect valuable information on the needs of vulnerable populations. For example, YEDID, together with Dr. Roni Kaufman, Head of the Social Science Center of Ben Gurion University, has instituted a questionnaire that will help create a portrait of the health consequences of food insecurity among elderly adults. Much of the research on food insecurity focuses on young and middle-aged adults and households with children. Resulting findings, definitions and measurements are therefore a reflection of these populations. Because of this focus, food insecurity among older adults remains poorly understood. YEDID will use the data it collects to study the relationship between health and food security, as well as that of poverty and food security.
From the beginning of May through the end of July, 2013, YEDID's Mobile Health and Rights Center ran five health days, serving 330 middle aged and elderly adults of diverse religions and ethnicities. One of these Health Days was run specifically for Holocaust Survivors. In addition, the center assisted 193 clients in accessing their legal rights and benefits. The majority of these clients turned to the center with issues regarding public housing, debt and repossessions, and obtaining benefits from the National Insurance Institute. The following story is taken from the period covered by this report:
In July 2010, a client turned to the Mobile Center in Carmiel. This client had been living in a public housing apartment in Kiryat Tiyon for many years, until the year 1987, at which point he moved. When he left the apartment, he had paid all that he owed and had no debts to the public housing company nor to the municipality. However, in 2010, the City Council of Kiryat Tivon sent him a letter demanding that he pay a sum of 26,000 shekels for a property tax debt that had been building until 2004 – a random date indeed. The client called the council and explained that he had not been a resident of Kiryat Tivon since 1987, but the council continued to badger him for immediate payment.
The client turned to YEDID in a panic, and asked for help in getting the inexplicable debt cancelled. First, the center director went to the Kiryat Tivon Collections Department to learn how the debt had come into being. The Billing Department clerk was unable to specify the components of the debt due to the amount of time that had passed. The center director then went to the director of the Collection Department, who was very helpful throughout the entire process. The center director and her client were asked to write a detailed letter to cancel the debt on account of non-receipt of details, as well as aging of the debt.
The request was transferred to a legal advisor for the City Council. The process was gruelingly slow – for the last three years, YEDID's center director called the director of the Collections Department every few months to director to get answers. Every time, she was told that "these things take time." All the while, the debt continued to grow and eventually reached 33,000 shekels! But in May 2013, patience and persistence finally paid off. The center received notice that the debt has been altogether cancelled!
From the beginning of March through the end of April, 2013, the Mobile Center ran four Health Days, in Omer, Tel Aviv, Ra'anana, and Or Akiva, serving a total of 420 clients on those days. In addition, the Center provided an additional 139 clients with rights counseling.The most prevalent subjects for which people turned to the center for non-health related issues during this period were matters related to housing, dealing with the National Agency for Debt Collection, and managing with financial hardships and debts that had not yet gone into reposession. Clients served included immigrants and veteran Israelis, Arabs and Jews.
During the period covered by this report, the Mobile Center's staff and volunteers underwent two trainings by lawyers from YEDID's Legal Department, covering legal matters pertaining to housing, labor, and reposessions. The team also joined YEDID's Housing Conference, which it held in Nazareth in April.
Three months ago, a woman, N., turned to the Mobile Center when it was in Carmiel. N. had divorced her violently abusive husband, and was living on her own in poor health and extremely limited income. She had been receiving rental assistance for a year when it was suddenly cut off, with neither warning nor explanation. This left N. to survive off of little more than the 1,600 shekels a month she was receiving from Social Services. She has no family to help her, and she does not speak Hebrew.
When N. tried to get answers from the mortgage company about why her rental assistance had been cut off, they said they would look into the matter. Weeks went by, and she heard nothing from them. In the meantime, her financial situation became desperate, and her landlord was threatening to evict her from her home. She returned to the Mobile Center again in April, this time in panic.
The Center Director immediately called the mortgage company and got answers right away, which is infuriating, when one thinks about it - if they could answer the Center Director, why could they not answer N.? The company said it needed a divorce document from the Sha'aria court to prove N.'s marital status. The Center Director and a translator accompanied N. to the Sha'aria court in Acre, and the documents were ready a few days later. The Center Director submitted them directly to the Ministry of Housing in Nazareth Ilit in order to speed up the process. After a week, the Mobile Center received news that N.'s rental assistance had been reinstated, including three retroactive payments. N. can finally breathe again. She has paid her rent and continues to live securely in her home.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.