Tyshon Woods is an inspiration to everyone who knows him. Born with multiple developmental disabilities and raised in the foster care system from the age of five, Tyshon overcame numerous challenges to become the person he is today, a confidant high school graduate with a reliable job, stable living environment and an unabashed enthusiasm for his passion: the martial arts.
“I have been studying karate a long time at BKG Academy in Long Branch,” Tyshon explains. “I go twice a week after work and every time I earn a belt, they say, Tyshon, want to start studying for the next one? This year I earned my Brown Belt. They make me keep going. They are really great!”
But despite Tyshon’s considerable achievements, his disability prevents him from leading a fully independent life. Tyshon relies on support from programs such as FCS’s Representative Payee (RepPayee) to keep him safe and avoid potential homelessness.
“Tyshon is an example of someone who was born into not great circumstance, but has been brave enough to try new things,” explains FCS RepPayee Director Sue Thiers. “He’s such a pleasure to work with and I am so glad we’ve been able to help him pursue his interests by giving him some financial stability.”
As a designated Organizational RepPayee, FCS provides financial management services to more than 1,000 Social Security beneficiaries in New Jersey and throughout the country who, like Tyshon, are incapable of managing their own funds due to significant mental, developmental or physical disabilities. Clients are referred to the RepPayee program from a variety of sources, including state and local hospitals, mental health agencies, families and caseworkers. Once a referral is received, Sue and her team of just three support staff work closely with the client and his or her caseworker to prepare a budget that maximizes their funds and ensures that their monthly expenses are covered.
“It works like a triage system,” Sue explains. “We give housing the highest priority, then money for utilities, food, clothing, and daily activities. If there is money left over after the bills are paid, we will disperse funds dependent on a client’s needs.”
Sue says even reluctant clients eventually appreciate the program because it takes some of the stress out of their already challenging lives. While most must remain in the program indefinitely due to the nature of their disabilities, some clients do graduate and live independently again.
“One of our clients was on the verge of homeless,” Sue recalls. “With our help and her own determination, she was able to get her life back on track. Now she has a home, a job, and is learning to pay her own bills. There are success stories!”
Sue says the need for RepPayee continues to grow and with more resources, she hopes to reach even more people like Tyshon.
For Tyshon, RepPayee has been a lifesaver. “Sue and the rest of the people in her office, they keep an eye out for me. They always make sure I have money for Karate lessons. They know how much that means to me.”
If you would like to help others like Tyshon, please consider a donation to FCS this Giving Tuesday, Tuesday, November 28th. We appreciate any support than you can give!