Supported Employment

Overcoming barriers to employment through continued support

We all want to reach our full potential. And thanks to generous supporters like you, even more of the resilient people we work with now have the opportunity to do so. Last fall, Caritas of Austin added yet another layer of support through its new Supported Employment program.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had. I am going to stay here forever,” said one client recently after starting a new position.

While we have helped people find jobs for over 50 years, this new program works to employ those with the most severe disabling conditions and mental health issues. Supported Employment is an evidence-based program that asserts all people can gain competitive employment in a community setting.

Why Supported Employment?

Extended periods of homelessness and unaddressed health issues have left many people we serve unemployed for years. But the concept of this new program aligns with one of our core beliefs: all people have inherent dignity, value, and strengths.

“This program has been a vision for years. People who have experienced homelessness are often disenfranchised and don’t feel they are part of the fabric of our community. When we house people, we do it in an integrated way in all parts of our city. Similarly, we want to give all clients the opportunity to contribute to our local economy – even those who thought employment would never again be possible,” said Jo Kathryn Quinn, President and CEO.

To date, 39 new clients have worked with a professional staff member on job application, interview preparation, professional training, and ongoing job support. Working together is critical in overcoming barriers like long gaps between employment and background issues.

Aso (Mike) Kakarash

“We are the bridge that connects clients with employers and other community partners,” said Employment Program Manager Aso “Mike” Kakarash. “It’s about building a relationship between clients and employers, forming a cohesive community, and helping employers understand the reasons for issues that may arise.

The Caritas team is leveraging existing partnerships with over 300 local businesses to identify new job placements for the Supported Employment program. This breadth of partnerships is particularly important during the current COVID-19 epidemic when employers such as hotels and restaurants are not hiring and job seekers must look to other industries.

Support doesn’t stop once a client is hired.

Members of the team also go to work with some clients during orientation and to ask questions the client might be afraid to ask or not know to ask. While in-person support currently looks different due to COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines, the Caritas team has been creative in providing on-the-job support via phone and other online platforms. The ongoing client-staff relationship is paramount in this new program due to the extreme emotional and mental vulnerability of people being served.

We are encouraged by the high level of interest in Supported Employment so far. We have a waitlist with dozens of clients eager to gain employment! Your generosity can help ensure continued growth as we work to house, feed, and employ even more individuals in our community. In our mission to end homelessness together, we know our community is stronger when everyone has the opportunity to contribute. Austin, we are stronger together!