Carl has lived with major depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) most of his adult life. He believes it began when he was a child. At 14, he ran away from home. He lived on the streets and had to steal to survive. According to national statistics, over 65% of people who are experiencing homelessness and living on the streets have a mental illness.
Throughout the years, Carl had an inconsistent track record with employment. He tended to be in and out of trouble with law enforcement. Although Carl enrolled in services at Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCBHS), he had difficulty communicating his thoughts and needs. Time management was non-existent, and he had a hard time asking for help. “Severe depression is more difficult than people realize,” says Carl. “I wasn’t receptive (to treatment). I thought it was something else.” His depression also made it difficult for him to take care of himself physically and mentally, which made it impossible for him to find and keep a job.
In 2022, things began to change. Carl shares why. “I wanted to beat depression. I would come to a hurdle, and I couldn’t function. I just wanted it out of my way.” Carl did research into his disease, which gave him some insight that he hadn’t had before. “Once I accepted my diagnosis, I felt free – that a weight had been lifted off my shoulders! And that was the first step towards my getting a job.”
Carl began putting in the work with his new GCBHS care manager. They built trust and when she asked him what he needed, he was able to communicate what he was feeling for the first time. As that trust grew, Carl slowly began to turn things around.
In July of 2022, Carl was introduced to Stephen Seta, an Employment Specialist with GCBHS. When Stephen first met Carl, he says, “He wasn’t very engaged or motivated. He was anxious about the entire process because he hadn’t worked in a very long time. Everything about it terrified him.”
But Stephen didn’t give up. He knew he had to get Carl to trust him. Stephen worked with him to build up his confidence to the point where, in the beginning of 2023, he knew Carl was ready. With his background in recycling and welding, Stephen thought Carl might enjoy working at the St. Vincent de Paul Outlet Store.
A big part of what a GCBHS employment specialist does is not just finding someone a job – they try to make sure it’s the “right” job so that the client maintains employment and enjoys what they are doing long-term. Says Stephen, “We went to the outlet store for a couple of months. Just walking around and checking it out – getting Carl comfortable enough to be able to apply for a job.”
Through his connections, Stephen introduced Carl to Craig, a manager at the St. Vincent de Paul outlet store (pictured right, with Carl). Craig interviewed and hired Carl, who started working part-time earlier this year. “The worst thing we can do is overload a client,” says Stephen. “We want the transition to be as smooth as possible. I mean, Carl hadn’t worked for many years, so we had to gently move forward, taking baby steps.” However, it didn’t take long for Carl to move to full time. “I love the physical part of the job,” he says. “And I really like the people I work with. Craig (his supervisor) is a good guy. They are open-minded to what I’ve got to say.”
Carl has been working at the outlet store for almost 6 months now and he’s won an award for perfect attendance three times. According to Craig, “Carl is a hard worker. He was a little shy when he first started but since then he’s opened up and shown us his great personality. I look forward to what the future holds for him, not only career-wise but on a personal level as well.”
Carl credits our employment program with helping him get to this point. “GCBHS saw that I still had potential. Stephen gives me a little push when I’m doubtful. He helps remove those little blocks so I can see the big picture.” Like many of our clients, Carl was hesitant about what he had to offer but with the support of the GCBHS Employment Program and employment partners like St. Vincent de Paul, he was able to accomplish something he hadn’t been able to do in a very long time and he is very thankful. “I didn’t want to be sick anymore,” he says. “Getting to this point has given me so much more. I feel good about working.”