After John Watkins was diagnosed with diabetes, severe health complications forced him out of his job of more than 10 years. Without a paycheck, he was unable to pay his bills and became homeless, finding shelter at the Gettysburg Gateway Emergency Shelter for Single Men in Dayton, OH.
It was there that he was paired up with employment specialists working at the Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley (Dayton, OH) Rapid Employment Program*, which operates out of space at the shelter. Soon after, his employment specialist helped him move into the Goodwill’s supportive employment program for individuals linked to community mental health programs. Through this combination of intensive programming, Watkins was able to obtain a job and now has his own apartment across town.
“It’s a really great program that’s helped me and some other people I know,” Watkins said. “I really would like to thank everyone again.”
Watkins is one of the 194 people who have benefitted from this rapid employment program since its inception in October 2011 as part of the Montgomery County, OH, 10-Year Homeless Solutions Plan. So far this year, the results of the Goodwill® program are impressive: in January, 2013, 11 participants gained employment, and in February, 12 participants found jobs ranging from cross country truck driving, to positions at McDonalds, in retail, in factories and as security guards.
Nikole Mansfield, the programs’ mental health coordinator, says participants undergo a comprehensive assessment, including academic testing and a review of the individual’s past jobs and skill sets. Employment specialists then work with participants to create resumes and complete individual plans.
Other options for participants include transitional employment training at the local Goodwill outlet store and career education and disability management forums. Employment specialists also accompany participants to interviews, and provide bus passes, Goodwill vouchers for proper work clothing, and a hygiene kit—anything that is required to ensure each participant has a fair chance at obtaining a job.
Once they obtain employment, the specialist keeps in close contact to ensure that job is maintained for 90 days.
“We’re both so passionate about what we get to do here,” says Dayton Goodwill Mental Health Services Supervisor Melany Markland, referring to Mansfield and herself. “A lot of employers are turning to us for more workers. When you sit down to take the time to talk to them about individuals who have disabilities or disadvantages, they want to help.”
Markland says that going forward, the Goodwill is looking to expand its work with homeless individuals beyond the Gateway Shelter, and relates one of her most memorable experiences in the program.
Brian, who has cognitive and learning disabilities, grew up in an affluent area in Centreville, OH. When his grandparents and parents passed away, Brian quickly depleted his trust fund, and found himself homeless. Brian was accepted into the Rapid Employment Program and excelled, and was able to obtain employment as a full-time security guard in downtown Dayton.
Markland tells him, “You used to walk the streets homeless and now you’re walking your beat.”
*The Rapid Employment Program is funded primarily through the Dayton YWCA, with support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Montgomery County’s Family and Children First Council.