Supported Employment Program Nurtures Recovery, Growth, and Prosperity

Rod Williams and Jessica Richards, ShelterCare Employment Specialists


ShelterCare’s Supported Employment Program is one of the many ways we nurture recovery, growth, and prosperity for our clients. The program, which was created specifically for individuals with mental health diagnoses, provides personalized support in every step of the employment journey.

From skills assessments and resume building, job searching and interviewing, to mental health resources, our Employment Specialists work individually with clients to help them find meaningful and fulfilling work.

As many program participants have not worked for a long time, and may have faced difficulty maintaining employment due to mental health symptoms or substance use, the team’s first priority is to help individuals acknowledge their worth, and build their confidence. “We help individuals build their confidence by discussing their skills, interests, and job preferences. Then, from there, we can do lots of career exploring and planning. ” said Jessica Richards, Supported Employment Program Supervisor.

There are currently 19 individuals engaged in ShelterCare’s Supported Employment Program, and 12 of those individuals are new to the program this year.

One of the Supported Employment Program’s most recent success stories is about a participant named Amy, who has been working as a welder for three months. At first Amy was nervous about being accepted by her co-workers in this male dominated field, but is excited to report she has earned their respect.

“She displayed so much dedication in getting this job, and now she rides her bike 20 miles a day, roundtrip,  to get to and from work,” says Richards. “She reports she feels appreciated and respected, and is able to do her job well, and that her colleagues notice it, too.”

The program also recently graduated three participants who have successfully gained and kept employment. One of those clients is 35-year-old Sarah, who was originally afraid that her anxiety and lack of work experience would interfere with her success. As Sarah has now been employed for eight months, she states, “I’ve been able to learn how to interact with people at work, and I’m learning what to say and what not to say. I actually have money to spend now, and it’s my goal to someday get off social security.”

For most people, finding the right job or career requires exploration, understanding oneself, and the courage to try new things. While some participants may find fulfilling jobs immediately, for many participants it takes time, and requires lots of trial and error.

For example, after working at a grocery store for several weeks, Stephanie learned that working in customer service isn’t a good fit for her, so with help from the Supported Employment Program, she’s considering what else she can do that would be more enjoyable and less stressful for her.

“Being creative, coming up with new ideas, and helping people maintain hope – while taking tiny baby steps – is often what often makes the program work. There have been times we’ve exhausted resources, run out of ideas to help someone, and then boom, everything we’ve worked on with a person finally makes sense, comes together, and they suddenly have a job. It’s always magical and inspiring when that happens, and people often just blossom. They start doing things they never really thought they would do. We’re often amazed, too. It’s really about persistence, though. We have to be persistent, and we have to model and encourage that in consumers.”


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