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 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.
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!