By Lynn Wiles
Bethesda Lutheran Communities
Bethesda Lutheran Communities’ Portland office is heading up a pilot project in Supported Employment, offering “real jobs with real pay” to the individuals we support – those both from Bethesda residential programs, as well as from outside referral sources such as the State Vocational Rehabilitation office and county DD branches. Portland serves a three-county area.
In July of last year, I started managing the supported employment venture.
At this time, Portland has seven people working in community-based jobs for at least minimum wage:
- One works in the front office of the Bethesda Portland site – answering the phone as a back-up to the receptionist, balancing Visa statements, copying, collating and performing other basic office tasks. Roy Soards and Bethesda Portland made an immediate commitment to walk the talk and hire someone into a Bethesda staff position.
- Another individual works at a high-end restaurant at the Portland International Airport – folding napkins and rolling silverware into them, wiping down menus and cleaning glass before the restaurant opens for business at lunch time.
- Yet another works at an all organic food market that is part of a regional chain – cleaning and stocking the café’ and deli dining room area. All of these individuals have stable employment and are doing a great job!
- Finally, an individual who Bethesda supports just started working at an auto spa as a detailer and is learning many new skills.
- Portland also employs three individuals on a mobile crew that performs landscape maintenance services to Bethesda residential and other community properties. These individuals receive minimum wage and are integrated into the community, yet they also receive close supervision through Bethesda job coaches which is important for them.
Portland was recently awarded a contract through the state Vocational Rehabilitation office and anticipates many referrals from this source in the coming months and years.
Bethesda Portland is also part of the Multnomah County Employment First Task Force – an effort that provides classroom and hands-on training to job developers and job coaches in the area. I’m part of the training team – offering mentoring to new job developers.
The Employment First philosophy states that “everyone can work with the proper supports.”
Oregon was an early leader in the Supported Employment movement.
When individuals and their families have questions and concerns about Social Security benefits, they are referred to one of two local agencies in Portland that provide “disability benefits navigation and planning.” Each person is seen individually to determine their “picture” of employment with Social Security benefits – so that the latter can be maintained while they work part time. At this juncture, no one from the Bethesda Portland program has gone to work full time or relinquished their benefits.
My next blog will focus on the skill set that is needed and sought out for job coaches. This is a skill set that can be learned and a career niche which has the potential for significant growth in the coming years as more and more states stop feeding the dinosaur and become part of the supported employment movement.
Lynn Wiles is a veteran job developer and employment specialist, as well as a certified vocational rehabilitation counselor. Most recently, she worked as a private contractor to Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind for many years before becoming part of the Bethesda team last July. She sits on the board of the East Multnomah County One Stop Career Center and started the Portland Metro Area Job Developers Network which now has more than 200 member agencies.
Filed under: Innovation Tagged: | Bethesda Lutheran Communities, DD, Disability, Employment First, job coaches, job developers, Lynn Wiles, minimum wage, Multnomah County Employment First Task Force, Oregon, Portland, Social Security, State Vocational Rehabilitation, Supported employment