Finding a New Sense of Purpose Through Work

September 30, 2016 | Posted in Housing |

After years of struggling with substance abuse and homelessness, Sharon Ford finally feels like her life is on the upswing. She moved into our Skyline Terrace community in 2012 and since then has maintained sobriety, developed deep friendships and gone back to work part-time through our supported employment program. Four days a week, Sharon delivers healthy food to our on-site food pantries.

“I look forward to getting up every day and going to work,” Sharon said. “My job keeps me busy and I love it because I get to meet different people.”

Sharon said her life was complete turmoil before she moved into Skyline Terrace. She saw her mother suffer from alcoholism when she was a child and her ex-husband introduced her to the drug that would derail her life. Sharon ultimately experienced homelessness on three separate occasions and her chronic health issues, including damaged discs in her neck and back, worsened.

She eventually got connected with a case manager at Caritas, one of our community partners, and that’s when she found a home with us. Having a stable place to live has allowed Sharon to make progress in treating her depression and anxiety, and build lasting relationships with friends and family. One of her favorite visitors is her four-year-old granddaughter who she loves taking to church and to fun activities around town.

Sharon is one of 15 residents that currently participate in our supported employment program. The program was created three years ago for residents who have unstable incomes, are unemployed or underemployed, and are in jeopardy of losing their housing because they’re having a hard time paying rent.

Our residents are employed in various roles. For example, some serve as drivers delivering food from the Central Texas Food Bank to our food pantries, as peer recovery coaches providing support to fellow residents through on-site recovery groups, or as community engagement specialists helping to gather resident input on health activities and community outings. The program was created in partnership with Austin Clubhouse and a grant from the City of Austin.

We’ve found that meaningful work empowers our residents not only to earn an income and stay housed, but to gain a sense of purpose, form friendships and improve their mental health and well-being. This is certainly true for Sharon, who is healthier and happier than ever.

“She takes such pride in her work, making sure that residents have fresh and healthy food to eat every week,” said Sofia Barbato, Supportive Services Program Supervisor. “The joy that she brings with her to work is infectious—she brightens our residents’ day every time she delivers food to the pantry.”