Online Program

Pursuing employment: A longitudinal qualitative study of participants in a housing first program

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sharon Osterweil, MPH, Psychosocial Services, Lifelong Medical Care, Berkeley, CA
Ana Stefancic, MA, Pathways to Housing, New York, NY
David Balk, MA, MC, PhD, Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY
Background/Significance: High rates of unemployment persist among adults with mental illness, particularly those who have struggled with poverty and homelessness. Research has identified Supported Employment (SE), and particularly Individual Placement and Support (IPS) as an Evidence-Based Practice, but sustained job seeking is still uncommon. Methods: Semi-structured, qualitative interviews were conducted with job-seeking adults receiving SE-based employment services in a Housing First program. 16 participants who experienced “key events”—job interviews and offers, jobs lasting 1 month, and job loss, completed an interview at each key event. Transcripts were coded and analyzed using grounded theory. Results: Preliminary results suggest 3 key findings: 1) Participants cited the stability of SSI and other entitlements as a barrier to work, but also recognized the financial opportunity that work provides; 2) Participants felt disadvantaged by their lack of tech-savvy job search skills, many having been out of the job market for years and/or reporting challenges with online job searches and applications; and 3) Many jobs that participants sought required not just an interview and application, but some manner of abilities and skills testing (e.g., practice shift). Discussion/Conclusions: Participants had more nuanced internal and external deliberations weighing the stability of SSI against the financial independence afforded by paid work than current literature suggests. SE programs will need to promote technological skills training to assist participants with job searching and move beyond preparing job seekers for traditional interviews to assisting them in preparing for skills tests without reverting to extensive vocational rehabilitation.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe barriers and facilitators to pursuing and obtaining employment for adults with mental illness. Explain some of the main ways that job search experiences affect perspectives on work and barriers to work. Describe a novel ‘key event’ methodology for studying employment processes that attempts to capture participants’ perspectives longitudinally as they search for and find work.

Keyword(s): Mental Health, SSI Benefits

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have experience in the field of employment for persons with psychiatric disabilities in a variety of capacities, both as a vocational specialist for adults with histories of homelessness, mental illness, and/or substance use as well as a researcher.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.