How DHS Helped these Oregonians on their Path to Independence


Program helps mother find footing on path to self-sufficiency

Haylee Davey, a participant in Lincoln County’s General Equivalency Diploma (GED) Fast-Track Program, smiles proudly in her cap and gown with her fiancé and three children by her side, after earning her GED.

Haylee, graduate of GED Fast Track with her fiancé, Mason, and their three children, Donte, Darian and Alanna.

“Getting my GED felt like a dream. My oldest (5-year-old, Donte) cried he was so happy. I kept telling him we would go to school together. He would say, ‘You promise we can be smart together?’ Yeah, I promise,” she said.

GED Fast-Track is provided through Lincoln County’s Job Opportunity and Basic Skills (JOBS) Program, an employment and training component of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. TANF is part of the DHS Self-Sufficiency Programs (SSP).

“I am so proud of Haylee,” said Tracie Untalan-Ashley, a family coach in SSP, who advises families on how to connect with programs and resources that may include other state agencies, community services, schools, partners, and employers. “I always used to tell her ‘be the change you wish to be,’ and she listened.”

“When I first met Tracie, I just moved back to Lincoln City from Kansas. I had escaped an abusive marriage, was working 50 hours a week, we were living in a tent, bouncing from campground to campground, and I just needed enough to get by to buy diapers,” Haylee said.

“I wasn’t thinking about the long-term future, but Tracie really set the fire beneath us. I really wanted to do school but I didn’t think it was feasible. She wanted to know more about why we were there and help us better ourselves. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have ever thought to accomplish my GED. I want to start college next,” said Haylee.

Participants in the JOBS Program are often confronted with barriers such as homelessness and domestic violence. Not only does GED Fast-Track reduce barriers for participants so they can earn their GED at their own pace, but it provides a broad overview of how the official GED tests are proctored.

Once these supports are in place, participants set their own goals, study at their pace, and schedule and complete their tests independently.

Since July, Lincoln County has had 15 participants working toward a GED. So far, nine participants have taken official tests, four have graduated and three more are expected to graduate soon.

GED Fast-Track has been a tangible way for participants to feel a sense of accomplishment furthering their path to success.

Haylee said Newport SSP staff share in her victory. “(Tracie) is my highlight and my rock star. I’d like to thank Alma (Baxter, the Newport SSP branch operations manager). She’s so loving and caring. Alma gave me her personal cap and gown to wear after I passed my testing. She was part of my victory. I’d also like to thank my GED coach. She was my rock. When I struggled in certain areas, she was always there to help. She helped me focus on the successes and not the bumps in the road,” said Haylee.

At age 105, Myrtle maintains her independence and zest for life

Myrtle Hundt, age 105, at home

Myrtle Hundt believes in working hard, and values her independence above all else.

“Everything I’ve done in my life, I’ve tried to do for myself,” Myrtle said. “I like to do things on my own.”

Myrtle lived independently until age 104, when she fell and broke her hip at her home in Medford and was placed in a nursing facility. The spirited Kentucky native was unhappy at the facility, where she shared a small space with another person and didn’t have room for her painting supplies.

“I wanted to live in my own room,” she said. “It felt like a prison.”

It was important for Myrtle to live somewhere she could have a flexible schedule and be located close to her friends so they could visit her.

Cori Klosterman, a transition coordinator with Aging and People with Disabilities (APD) District 8 office in Medford, helps people find community resources after being discharged from a hospital. She met Myrtle and was determined to find a solution for her.

“At her age, it is very likely she might have stayed at the nursing facility, but that isn’t what Myrtle wanted,” Cori said.

Cori contacted Shannon Sterner, who owns a foster home within a mile of Myrtle’s friends and neighbors. Shannon’s home met all of Myrtle’s criteria. Myrtle moved into the home in the summer of 2017.

Having space for art supplies and to paint was important in Myrtle’s adult foster home search.

“I’m happy here,” Myrtle said. “I can be independent here, do my own thing. I have a private room, a good clean bed, and the food is very good.”

Myrtle outlived three husbands and five children. She worked most of her career as a nurse. At age 105, she enjoys painting landscapes and nature, playing with the household dog Frisco, and visiting with her friends.

“I’m getting younger every day,” Myrtle said, laughing. “I don’t like sitting around.”

Myrtle also appreciates the care and love that Shannon provides. Shannon’s passion for caregiving started at an early age. She worked in a nursing facility in Pennsylvania and was caring for a man who only laid in bed and stared at the ceiling. One day, she turned on a radio and noticed that the man’s feet begin to move with the music.

My heart almost exploded,” Shannon said. “I knew, this is what I need to do.” Shannon moved to Oregon in 2012 and worked for an adult foster home provider. Now she owns her own foster home.

“I feel like no one can take care of my family like I do,” Shannon said, referring to the five residents as her family members.

Cori is happy to see that Shannon’s home has been such a good fit.

“Myrtle is an inspiration because she is 105, never gives up and stays positive,” Cori said. “I love my work. It makes an enormous impact on people’s lives to help them get to a place where they are happier and more independent.”

Former truck driver regains independence with help from DHS

As a truck driver, Kelly Dasher hauled everything from boats to Christmas trees and managed oversized loads that sometimes required a police escort.

The quality of her life spiraled downward when she could no longer work because of a combination of injuries and illness. She applied for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income but was turned down twice at the District Court level. Without an income, she struggled to survive. While she once made her living driving, reliable transportation was now beyond her reach financially, making it difficult to get to medical appointments and church.

When Kelly reached out to the Oregon Department of Human Services Aging and People with Disabilities (APD) program office in Coos Bay in 2015, a disability analyst, Joy Plummer, assisted her through the Disability Benefit Liaison Program. The program is part of APD’s Collaborative Disability Determination Unit (CDDU).

“Once a case is turned down at the

Joy Plummer (left) connected with Kelly Dasher in the Coos Bay APD Office.

first two administrative reviews, the consumer has a two year wait for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge,” said Randi Blumenson, a CDDU policy analyst, who assists consumers through the Disability Benefits Liaison program.

In working on Kelly’s case, Randi obtained an additional evaluation to assess previously undisclosed conditions. A judge approved the new request. In January, Kelly began receiving $750 a month in benefits and was approved for a back award of more than $22,000, providing her with financial stability for the first time in more than a decade.

“Receiving a lump sum payment can be life changing,” explained Erika Miller, a program manager for CDDU. A payment of $20,000 or more makes it possible to secure a more sustainable housing arrangement or purchase a vehicle. Ultimately, that support leads to improved health, safety and stability.

“I was so impressed with Randi. She was so helpful and so organized,” Kelly said.

The benefits Kelly received have made it possible for her to buy a car and regain her driver’s license. “I feel like now I am able to participate in society again.”

Want to read more smart government articles? Check out our ‘Smart Government‘ section. 

About Author

Elisa Williams is a Communications Officer for the Department of Human Services' Aging and People with Disabilities. program,. The program assists older adults and people with disabilities to achieve well-being through opportunities for community living, employment, family support and long-term services.

Comments are closed.