In honor of Disability Employment Awareness Month this October, today’s blog post contributor is NorthStar Clubhouse member Deborah Katz, who presented information about NorthStar’s employment program to the 2022 International Clubhouse Seminar in September.
What is NorthStar Clubhouse?
NorthStar Clubhouse Clubhouse in Portland is a peer support program of New Narrative and is accredited by Clubhouse International. Clubhouses are evidenced-based, non-clinical programs that help thousands of people all over the world. Membership is open to adults in the Tri-county Area who live with a mental health condition. Clubhouses follow a social and vocational rehabilitation model and result in reduced hospital stays, greater life satisfaction and productivity, and an increased likelihood of obtaining and maintaining gainful employment.
One of the cornerstones of a clubhouse is its Employment and Education (“E&E”) Program. For the employment component of this program, NorthStar’s E & E staff and members assist other members with their employment goals. These may include job identification, resumes and cover letters, interviewing skills, and support after employment. Each plan is tailored to the individual.
The Benefits of Transitional Employment
Mental health conditions are often invisible disabilities. Sometimes clubhouse members have employment gaps due to their disability, making it challenging to get hired. In other cases, members need to build their confidence as they transition to working again. That’s where NorthStar’s Transitional Employment (“TE”) program comes in.
A TE position is a part-time paid job that usually lasts between 6-9 months. It’s a win-win for the employer, the member, and the larger community. NorthStar partners with local employers to develop these positions, and our staff is trained alongside the member. If the member calls out sick, our staff covers for them. After a member finishes their TE position, another member fills the slot.
NorthStar Shines in the Community
NorthStar’s current TE placements are at Ross Dress for Less, Unicorn Bake Shop, and Ground Up PDX, a local nut butter company with a mission to help womxn facing adversity. I wanted to help my clubhouse, so I took the initiative of contacting Unicorn Bake Shop and (previously) New Seasons about establishing a TE partnership with them. I was thrilled when they accepted. Another member, Erika L., did the same thing by contacting Ground Up PDX. NorthStar continues to seek out businesses for new TE placements in our community. We are excited for the future of the E&E Program’s impact on the lives of our members and employers in our community!
Unicorn Bake Shop is a wonderful vegan bakery in Portland that specializes in making delicious cupcakes. Though they’re a small business, NorthStar soon had two TE positions there and one Supported Employment (“SE”) position! (SE is a permanent position where a peer wants some support from NorthStar E & E staff. An example is support in communicating with one’s supervisor.) One of our members, Matt S., washes dishes at the bakery and said, “NorthStar’s TE position at Unicorn Bake Shop has given me the confidence to be employed again after years of retirement. Support from NorthStar and the bake shop has made this possible!”
Another TE success story is Jon S., who started at Unicorn washing dishes for 9 hours a week. After about 2 ½ months, he was promoted to front-of-house, working 25 hours a week! Jon said, “I’ve had many jobs. This is the best job I’ve ever had, mostly due to the character of people who work here. This is a great, positive workplace where I fit in well. There’s lots of positive energy and good vibes. And I like that Unicorn gives back to the community.” (Unicorn donates food, and funds from sales, to organizations that support things like stopping evictions; and queer and trans. rights, among others.)
Dressed for Success
NorthStar’s partnership with Ross Dress for Less has been so successful that we quickly had four members working in three different store locations! Edgardo A., Andy A., and Matthew M. stock the store with items, and Justin S. is a cashier. Andy was named Employee of the Month! Said Matthew, “It’s been a positive experience being able to work again after 18 years. It gives me something productive to do in my spare time besides being isolated. Also, a coworker invited me out for a meal and we had a very long talk. That was very meaningful to me…”
It’s unusual for clubhouse members to initiate TE relationships. Clubhouse International took notice of my involvement, and I was honored to present at their 2022 International Clubhouse Seminar in September. Joining me were another member, two staff, and New Narrative’s Vice President of Peer Services, Haven Taylor. We learned many things that we’re bringing back to NorthStar to positively impact our program.
What Employers Should Know About this Program
Becoming a NorthStar Employer Partner saves companies time and money. NorthStar pre-screens and refers skilled employees to employers, saving recruiting, advertising, and interview costs. Companies reduce turnover due to the close working relationship between NorthStar staff and company supervisors, ensuring new hires are fully trained and performing to expectations.
NorthStar Employer Partners receive continuous support from NorthStar staff. Support is provided to new hires both on and off the job site.
Tax credit is available. For many employers, the Federal tax credit program called the Work Opportunity Tax Credit provides additional benefit to the company.
To learn more about NorthStar Clubhouse and their Employment Program, please email Bill Waters. For general information, visit NorthStar’s website or schedule a tour Monday through Friday during open hours by calling (971) 271-7273. NorthStar is located at 5600 NE Glisan St. in Portland, and has prospective-member orientations every Wednesday at 3:00 pm, in person and on Zoom. Providers can refer their clients on NorthStar’s website.
To learn more about New Narrative’s peer support services, visit https://newnarrativepdx.org/discover-what-we-do/peer-programs/.