In the US, only 15% of people living with mental illness are employed. But here at Fountain House, 70% of members involved in the Employment Resource Center programs are able to work. Of course, none of this would be possible without companies who participate in our Transitional Employment (TE) or Supported Employment programs.
On October 7th, Fountain House hosted a reception to show gratutide to those employers. At the event which was held in the Wellness Unit, President Kenn Dudek thanked business leaders for their commitment to hiring members. The highlight of the event was when members Esmie, Timothy, and Senora, spoke about their experiences at Fountain House and in the employment program. Their stories were incredibly inspiring.
Esmie has been a member at Fountain House since 2009. She was working in the Education Unit when she heard about an opening for a Mail Clerk at Dow Jones.
“At first I was skeptical because I hadn’t had a job in years. I wasn’t sure I could handle the physical requirements of the position. But being trained on site by a Fountain House worker helped me gain confidence an adapt to the environment.”
Esmie has been working at Dow Jones for about six months where she sorts mail and newspapers.
Timothy has been a member at Fountain House since 1993. He worked in the Snack Bar for years, which prepared him for a real job. Timothy has had six transitional employment positions (TEs) over the years. He explained how the TEs helped him get a permanent full-time job.
“When I decided to look for full time work, Fountain House helped me with my resume and job search. The experience I got in mail rooms through my TEs helped me get my current full-time position, which is at Penguin Random House,” he said.
Timothy has been employed by Penguin Random House for seven years. He works alongside several Fountain House members. They get along well and support each other. “This is the longest I’ve ever held a job in my life. It has helped me become truly self-sufficient. I don’t even collect SSI or SSD benefits anymore,” he said.
Timothy met his wife at a Fountain House. She is also employed through the assistance of Fountain House’s employment program.
“Getting a job has been a really big deal for me. To be able to start out slow through Transitional Employment and to know the staff is backing you up…that if you can’t make it they go to work for you, has been very helpful. The fact that businesses like Penguin are helping us out is also a really big deal. They are providing the building blocks for people with severe mental illness to get viable jobs and be integrated into society,” he said.
Timothy has another career goal. He is getting my BA in English Literature at Brooklyn College and plans to teach English to middle school students after he graduates.
“I am truly grateful to Fountain House for its excellent employment program and to my Penguin random House for giving me this opportunity that has made me feel productive and part of society,” he said.
Senora has been a member at Fountain House for six months. She explained how Nancy of the Research Unit encouraged her to become a tour guide. “When I walked through these green doors, I said to myself, ‘delicious, fantastic. The place looked great.’ Nancy thought I would be good at giving tours to people who visit Fountain House. I started doing it and without me even knowing it, I was getting rave reviews,” she said.
Before long, Senora met some Fountain House members who worked at Eileen Fisher. They encouraged her to apply for a job there—where she worked part-time until recently.
“Working has given me back my sense of purpose and productivity. I’m also really into fashion. At work, my coworkers have given me so much positive feedback and support. I am totally honest and open with them about everything in my life,” she said.