“These are consumers who have not had an easy row to hoe .... The way we try to look at it from our agency perspective: We assume that everyone has experienced trauma,” perhaps abandonment or being bullied.
None are violent, according to her. When asked if any have substance abuse problems, Harmon answers, “Not currently.”
“A lot of what we do is working with them on what we call illness management and recovery. We help them understand what their diagnosis is, what their symptoms are and the treatment of that particular illness. How does that manifest itself when they’re at a job, in school or out in the community?” For instance, some persons with bipolar disorder “struggle with being able to sleep at night,” find it difficult to go to a job and perhaps spend money compulsively. Employees work with them on “what strategies can they use to make better choices?”
Consumers also learn independent living skills – budgeting, cooking, shopping, cleaning, laundry, organization, accessing community resources and interpersonal skills.
Most have very specific goals, such as “to develop and maintain a budget” or “my apartment will be sanitary and clean once a week when it’s checked” or making sure there is enough food. Several need to learn “what friendship is and how to make long-term mutually satisfying relationships.” Others who have a lot of anxiety will be coached on how to feel more confident when they’re interacting with people out in the community, “For some people it’s about nutrition and health.” Workers help them realize “there are other choices besides going to McDonald’s fives times a week.”
Parenting skills have been taught to the “multiple residents who have young children, infants and toddlers,” who also have lived at the apartments.
On Nov. 26 consumers fixed a Thanksgiving meal with staff supervision. “This might be the first time they’ve ever cooked a turkey.” About a month ago, a speaker came to the apartments. On that night, some of the residents prepared pizzas. “While it would have been easier to order out or bake frozen,” homemade was more affordable on their incomes. “That’s when we know we’ve done our job.”