SJCS-PA is working with partners to address the complex issues at the intersection of disability, poverty, and unemployment in less traditional ways. Customized Employment and Guided Group Discovery provide a starting point for people to think about employment. Rather than a traditional approach, which asks “Do you have work for me,” Guided Group Discovery asks, “What am I looking for from work” or “What job would be the best fit for me.” During this process SJCS-PA assists jobseekers in building career networks, provides weekly check-ins, focuses on workforce and vocational rehabilitation resources available in the community, and leverages partners from multiple systems, increasing the chances for employment success.
Working with clients, SJCS-PA helps jobseekers develop ownership over their job search, specifically those with complex barriers to employment such as racial discrimination, gaps or a lack of work history, food and housing insecurity, mental and behavioral health challenges, and a wide range of traumatic experiences. SJCS-PA is partnering with Bethesda Project’s Our Brothers’ Place Shelter to address these issues. Customized Employment and Guided Group Discovery provide time and space to identify valuable skills, many of which are developed by overcoming these systematic barriers, and then translating them into benefits to an employer. In one exercise, participants practice their pitches including their interests, needs, and most importantly how non-traditional skills would benefit the employer.
In addition, SJCS-PA’s partnership with The Village of Arts and Humanities is working to end the cycle of intergenerational poverty that disproportionately occurs in communities of color. Through a robust array of programming for youth, which centers on the arts, the program focuses on the creative economy. They have completed the first in a series of focus groups to learn what the youth see as possible opportunities and career paths available to them within the community. Information gathered during the focus groups is being used to develop a Customized Employment and Guided Group Discovery.
Low-income Americans have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic disorders, and in 2014, 28% of working age adults with a disability were living below the poverty level. Further, people with a disability are twice as likely to live in poverty as people without a disability. Adding to this, the unemployment rate is twice as high for adults who experience four or more traumatic experiences as children compared to those who experienced zero. These partnerships are essential in making a meaningful impact in the community, and SJCS-PA’s work with homelessness, workforce, vocational rehabilitation and community employment systems is an example of a very successful model.
The full article written by Larry Russok, the Pennsylvania Regional Director for SJCS, can be found on the LEAD Center’s website.