Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jobs and Houses

It's very interesting, really. Consider 2 groups, and there is a great deal of intersection between the 2.

Group 1: people who are elibible for a home and work with Habitat for Humanity.
Group 2: people with disabilities who are just entering the workforce and work with ???

Can you take a person in group 1, give them a house, and say, "Here you go! Now that you have this, we have support to help you move forward. But here's your house - congrats!"

Can you take a person in group 2, give them a job and say, "Here you go! Now that you have this, we have support to help you move forward. But here's your job. And you still have your benefits - no worries - congrats!"

It really doesn't sound like this is going to work out very well. What could go wrong? Neither group knows the resources, so they may be starting with no support - they're set to fail.

Group 1 - Habitat for Humanity has a great program - I thought they just gave houses until recently. But not at all. People go through 16 weeks, 2.5 hours a week, to get ready to make the transition to that house. In those weeks, it's intense. What will help them be successful? Where will they struggle? What new resources do they need? What supports do they need?

Group 2: Today I was in a group talking about this group. The first and foremost thing is benefits. But then we seemed to skip to getting them a job... WAIT! Hold on - that's like just giving the house to someone. Are they ready? I'm thinking maybe, but many times, no. Giving resources after they get the job could create confusion.

I think of myself a bit here. I have a job. I am limited by MS. But I'm not just starting out - I've developed resources. I am used to getting up 45-60 minutes before everyone else in order to get ready. I know that for best energy during the day, I set out clothes the night before, because getting clothes takes energy. I know at work where I want to park. I know how much I need to walk at work, and that if I don't walk, life will be hell that evening because I will have leg spasms. I know I may be exhausted when I get home (though this is not as bad on Ampyra), that I can pick up my daughter and they will bring her out to the car because we have developed a system. I know that on many days, I may not have energy to cook dinner, and we'll choose the best drivethrough so I don't have to use energy. Energy is a big thing - as I go through each day, I know what I have to do and I am constantly working through things in my mind, calculating if I want to do x, then I must do y. And to a large degree, this is done on auto-pilot because it has gradually become my life. I haven't been thrown into it.

Back to group 2: before getting a job, are they ready? Do they have childcare, transportation, food, etc. Have they thought about when they are going to shop with a job, given less time and less energy?

It's not to discourage group 2. It's to say look at the successful model for group 1. And to not give the same type of thing to group 1 may be setting them up to fail. Maybe they don't need 16 weeks of 2.5 hours a week. But if I were thrown into the job world without easing into everything like I was, I would be lost.

So we address benefits. Then we lay a foundation. Then comes the first job. And then we must also recognize that some people want to advance. That's often forgotten. In the door - isn't that enough? The person has a cube and a job. It's not enough? No, definitely not enough. Even with daily, hourly, by the minute struggles, advancement may be important. And then, perhaps it's not about the pay - it may be about respect.

I hope people learned about laying a foundation today. I think it's obvious. I'm not sure others quite "get it," just like many don't "get" why getting in the door is sometimes not enough.


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