Career Development Forum – EQUUS Cohort

Instructions:  A customer makes an appointment with you to find work. The individual needs assistance with housing and meals.

Answer these questions:

1. To whom in your local area do you refer them for this assistance?

2. What techniques have you found especially helpful to use in an intake interview to discover barriers that a customer might be facing? Describe 1-2 techniques you use that work well for you.

Make one original post and then respond to 1 team member’s post. You will make a total of two posts. For your original post, responds in a paragraph or two for the 2 questions. For your 2nd post, respond in several sentences.

Remember that our learning group works in a full-value environment: We treat our colleagues with respect and professionalism. Our comments should reflect this culture.

32 thoughts on “Career Development Forum – EQUUS Cohort”

  1. kcirincione says:

    My initial meeting with a customer will have an informal assessment. Through dialogue and conversation, I would like to learn what brought the person to the American Job Center and what their thoughts about their future are. I also will dive deeper to ask the person, who they live with, do they have children, and about their income/financial situation. In the WIOA program, the customers come from diverse backgrounds. It is important to find out if there are any emergency issues. Sometimes a housing issue may be needing an emergency shelter or other times it may be an eviction or pending foreclosure. It is important to find a plan for the person. If it is determined, that need is an emergency need for food and shelter, I would start by helping the individual call 211 Infoline to find a shelter placement for the night. In colder months, there are no freeze orders in CT and additional beds at shelters may open-up. I would also search for local organizations and churches offering soup kitchens for meals. By focusing on the individual’s immediate needs, and ensuring is not a judgment and ensuring the approach is empathetic. I would also let the person know, the plan is to address the emergency need and then make a follow-up appointment. Once the person is situated for the evening, additional referrals to more on-going services can be discussed. It is important also, to collaborate with shelter staff and case managers to find out what resources and referrals were made for the customer.

    1. acastro says:

      It’s important to determine the exact needs of customers. I like that you started off with asking questions to truly determine what the customer’s needs may be. Is this an eviction that we could possibly assist with to avoid homelessness, or is this person in immediate need of a bed? Also helping the customer identify a possible support system within their network can ease some stress and anxiety. Collaboration with shelter staff is key. While employment is the objective, we are aware that there may be additional barriers/issues customers are dealing with that will affect their success in either obtaining or retaining employment. Shelter staff can offer more insight to community resources or programs that may be able to assist this customer. We can in turn share this information with our colleagues that can refer their customers who may be going through similar situations. Shelters can also refer potential customers back to the AJC for services.

    2. zlopez says:

      I agree with everything you stated. We have the same point of views regarding techniques use for intake interview. It is very important to address all the needs of the customers first. Additional resources in the community we can assist our customer are Salvation Army, Masters Mana, Catholic Charities and The Grace Place.

  2. acastro says:

    I would refer this customer to two places, The Department of Social Services and 211. Should they not be receiving SNAP benefits, I would encourage the customer to apply for benefits. They would be able to utilize the Career Resource room as the application is available online. Our Resource Room is also staffed so that assistance can be provided if needed. For immediate meals, I would refer to local food banks such as New Opportunities or Connecticut Food Bank. We are lucky to be able to offer UBER, I would offer this if public transportation were not feasible. Housing is harder to tackle. The first referral would be to 211 as this will then connect the customer to shelter services. Should this individual be on cash assistance, I would offer a referral to the Barrier Intervention Referral (BIR) program to assist with this and any other barriers they may be facing. Because they need immediate employment, I would then inform them of the Work Experience Program where they would be able to have some income while training and receiving services.

    It is important to build trust during the intake process. I investigate the case before sitting with the client. I will look at previous case notes if they have been working with someone in the past. If this is a TANF customer, I can pull up the services needs assessment done by DSS to get information such as background, education, mental/behavioral health, substance abuse or domestic violence issues. I will use this as base to then tailor intake. I like to set expectations from the beginning. I will let the customer know what we will accomplish during intake and how long the process will take. Open ended questions help when discovering or talking about potential barriers. From there we can address any immediate needs and come up with a plan to address other issues.

    1. jnatalino says:

      I agree with you Adlin, I like to look at the service needs assessment and also the ImpaCT case notes to get a better understanding of the client prior to the initial meeting. And building trust, and setting expectations is essential in our roles to become successful.

    2. alozano-gomez says:

      I like that you mentioned UBER, as it is very beneficial to many participants that face unexpected last-minute situations that may come in between their employment or interviews. Furthermore, it is surprising how many people do not know much about 211 services and how they work. It is essential to explain to the participants the shelter process and when it should be requested. When the information is presented and broken down into steps, the participants become more confident about continuing to their next step.

  3. zlopez says:

    Since the pandemic occurred that turned our lives upside down my initial contact with my clients has changed drastically. First, I keep an open mind in non-judgment way and have compassion and empathy. Now my initial contact is virtual through ring central, phone conference or in person with a customer. I give them the option to choose what is more comfortable for them. I engage in a conversation with the customer in order to understand my customer barriers, needs, interest, goals, background and the reason that brought them to the American Job Center. I also like to find out how do they see themselves in 1, 5, 10 years from now. Once I get a background on the customers, we can work on addressing the customers immediate needs first before making a plan for the future. The customer needs and barriers must come first to alleviate the stress on the customer. At this point I ¬¬¬¬-will get on the phone to make some calls to see if I can get the help the customer needs now. I would refer that customer to the supportive services to also help. Once the needs are met, I will call the customer to do a follow-up to see how they are doing and ask if their needs were met. Once the needs and barriers are met, we can move forward to making a plan with the customer for the future with a follow-up appointment.

    1. jwesley says:

      Zaida, in this line of work you have to show compassion in every way and we have to be non judgmental when approaching these customer. A lot of the customers come to us when they are having a rough time, so they need us to exhibit a level of compassion. I am glad that you follow up with the customer once you give them the resources.

    2. ptonello says:

      I agree that being non judgemental is imperative as any of us could be in a similar situation. The pandemic was a perfect example of people finding themselves in a situation needing food banks and other resources that they never were before. Helping customers discuss barriers and needs to be successful in being able to look for work is not an easy task and takes a special skill set. I am in awe of the staff and your ability to be able to guide and assist people on their journey while empowering them and making them feel supported.

    3. mturner says:

      For housing, I would recommend United Way, 2-1-1 and write up a barrier intervention referral. For meals I would recommend the Downtown Soup Kitchen in New Haven. The tool that assists me the most during the intake process to finding out what barriers they’re facing is the Work Readiness Assessment; the statements there allow me to get a little more inquisitive with the participant about what they’re facing.

      1. mturner says:

        Zaida, I like the fact that you follow up with the participant, because from time to time, what’s suggested gets away from the participant.. they don’t always remember what to do, or what was discussed. And if they have, you can update your case notes to reflect the action they’ve taken.

  4. jwesley says:

    When talking to a customer, I focus on the entire person and the entire family, so normally at some point during us talking housing a food insecurities if any. Housing issues can be in the form of eviction, being behind on their rent, or looking for housing. In the case of eviction or being behind I would recommend 211 and also CT Legal Aid. If they job seeker is looking for housing, I would check to see what section 8 list and housing list are currently open, along with 211 and doing an apartment search on and other websites geared towards looking for an apartment. When it comes to food, I would first ask the seeker if they have signed up for SNAP if they qualify or if they already receive it. Again, I would recommend 211 and also direct them to some community food banks. has a list of food banks along with food banks that are at certain housing developments. If the need for food is an emergency and affecting the children, I know we have gift cards at times, so for this immediate need, I would request a gift card from the manager or supervisor.

    1. cquinones says:

      You are correct, when you say housing issues, can stem from evictions, non-payment of rent, and having a slum landlord, but having services from Legal Aid, can certainly assist the customer during this difficult time. I sometimes assume, all families are receiving SNAP benefits, and that may not be the case. Maybe assisting them in applying online will help. There are some cases the amount of SNAP is not enough to feed the family so having other options on hand, available, can assure the person, they can obtain food, possibly that same day. We have to be ready with resources, links, phone numbers, emails, as a situation may be desperate and having a customer with no food for her family, can lead to a negative outcome.

    2. Kspears says:

      I agree with focusing on the entire family. I know that working with youth, it’s important to get to the root, and a lot of the time, getting to the root is going deep within the family. With the family approach, it’s all about breaking generational curses.

  5. jnatalino says:

    During the initial intake, I go over what brought them in, and what services they are seeking. I complete an objective assessment or a work readiness assessment with the clients. I can also complete a BIR referral that can be offered for JFES clients which can help with resources as well. When the customer stated they need housing, the first thing is to find out what type of housing, and if it is an emergent need. If they are current risk of homelessness, I will speak to them about emergency housing/shelters. I would contact 211 with the client or provide them with the website and telephone for them to call if that’s their preference. Some Emergency Housings local to our office is Columbus House, and Hill side Family Center. All shelters in our area only accept referrals from 211, and once placed they receive assistance with section 8, rapid rehousing, and for 2 of my recent clients, they were placed into housing from there. For meals 211 also provides a list of food pantries, like Nice Center Food Pantry in New Haven, and Christian Community Action.
    I would also address any other type of barriers that they might be facing. For Childcare we have Care4Kids and can use the care4kids site to research daycare providers. For transportation we have the Public Transit that is currently free at moment, we have services for mileage reimbursement for JFES clients, and Uber rides for emergency purposes. for both WIOA and JFES clients. Because there is a housing and food need I would also refer to DSS for SNAP benefits. and would also mention Energy Assistance to have them sign up for once housing is secure. I would also navigate the 211 system to go over other services to see if client needs assistance in anything else.

    1. kcirincione says:

      I agree. Having a Resource Specialist work more intensely with barriers and have their ear to the ground is very important as new programs are constantly coming up, or requirements are changing. As agencies gain and lose funding, it is important to stay abreast of all the changes. Meeting with a Resouce Specialist would be recommended as one of the very first individual appointments a job seeker has with a staff member.

  6. ptonello says:

    When first meeting with a customer, I would do an informal assessment and through conversation learn about the person and their family. I would assess their living situation and any needs that need to be addressed to overcome their barriers. I would make them feel comfortable in discussing their situation and would refer them to 211 and also to more direct resources such as Christian Community Action Agency and Foodshare. I think it is important that we beef up our Resource Specialist position so we can serve people who need immediate needs such as food and shelter immediately. I would like to make sure we are able to provide basic necessities ongoing as we have done this year and expand it to include non perishable food items as well. It is important to utilize the Resource Guide desktop that was developed for all staff as well.

    1. kcirincione says:

      I agree. Having a Resource Specialist work more intensely with barriers and have their ear to the ground is very important as new programs are constantly coming up, or requirements are changing. As agencies gain and lose funding, it is important to stay abreast of all the changes. Meeting with a Resouce Specialist would be recommended as one of the very first individual appointments a job seeker has with a staff member.

    2. mgeyer says:

      Yes Pamela. I so agree. The organizations you speak of, I too use them. I have experience with the community programs, so I know that they work. I like what you said, “It is important to beef up our Resource Specialist position so we can serve people who need immediate needs…” You stated facts. I hope we are able to provide for families ongoing as well. It brings me joy to help assists individuals and their families with necessities. It could easily be us and if it was, we would look to someone to help us as well.

  7. alozano-gomez says:

    The referral is based on the needs of the participant. To know where to refer them, I need to understand the present obstacles, such as daycare, transportation, and a lack of vital resources such as food, clothes, and so on. For instance, if a participant needs daycare, I direct them to the C4K website and supply them with the necessary applications. For monthly transportation requirements, I would file a Supportive Services request to aid in paying for his bus pass. Many people from many nations require ESL lessons, so I direct them to the Adult Education program in their region. If it doesn’t work, I recommend them to 211 for more help. On other occasions, I’ve had participants who needed food or medical help; in this situation, the participants are sent to the Department of Social Services nearest them. Listening to what they say and asking open-ended questions that might offer me more specific information has been beneficial during an intake interview to find hurdles. For example, what their program’s short and long-term goals are so that we may create a Work Plan based on their requirements and eventual employment goal.

  8. cquinones says:

    1. To whom in your local area do you refer them for this assistance?
    During the initial appointment it’s important for the customer to know, they will leave with a few options. It’s important for them to feel, there is assistance, to the barrier they may be having, Due to having an issue with meals, I would provide the client with a list of local churches who offer hot meals to families who are in need, also a list of local food banks, food kitchens, and soup kitchen, with hours of operation and phone numbers. When it comes to housing, I refer them to 211, who can assist the client with a list of open housing applications. It can be very frustrating and overwhelming for a customer to take the time, in applying to housing , to only find, the list in not open. We would also have the conversation, regarding applying to local shelters, which may also be the first option in securing housing. Submitting a BIR referral is also another option, for intensive case management services. This way, they have someone who will advocate for the families.

    2. What techniques have you found especially helpful to use in an intake interview to discover barriers that a customer might be facing? Describe 1-2 techniques you use that work well for you.

  9. Kspears says:

    If a youth has housing issues during the intake, a referral is made to 211. 211 allows you to make referrals to appropriate community resources and intervene in crises. During the pandemic, many of our youth faced homelessness, and 211 was a great source and local churches that would house during the night. A few of my youth apply for section 8, but the waiting list deters them. 211 connects the youth to Youth Continuum, a program that helps homeless youth find housing.
    If any of my youth need food assistance, I immediately ask them if they receive the SNAP. Often, the youth receive snaps but sell them for extra income. If they don’t receive SNAP, I help them apply. I also refer them to food banks. Some food banks are open every day. That will allow them to get the nutrition they need until they are approved for SNAP if they’re eligible.
    Some of the techniques I used to obtain information about youth barriers are showing empathy and understanding. I assure them that I am there to help and help without judgment. I learn from working with youth that they will share information once you gain their trust. I also learned that you must follow through with what you tell them and come with resources.

    1. dartis says:

      I think it is a great thing to use SNAP and Food Banks together as a way to address the food barrier. It is easy to overlook government options. It is also important to help them with empathy and understanding and not judge their choices. Trust is also a key factor because someone may not feel comfortable sharing their barriers in the intake or even implementing a suggested solution.

  10. mantonio says:

    If a customer needs help with housing then they are referred to 211 and the Youth Continuum program for housing. They have different options that help young adults with housing.
    If someone is in need of food assistance then typically I will ask if they are receiving SNAP benefits. If not, then that will be a main barrier that is addressed once the intake is complete. Another option is using food banks or local churches who have pantries available and people are able to take a certain amount of goods from there.
    I find a great technique to discovering barriers is to remain supportive and display positive body language, along with a calm tone of voice, when asking a difficult question about possible barriers. There are different ways to ask the same question and with some time I’ve found non-threatening/judgmental ways of wording my questions to customers. I believe that the way you ask something is important for getting an honest/positive result.

    1. arivera1 says:

      I agree that is an amazing technique to discover barriers. By asking the question in a non-judgemental way it allows for the client to share without the fear of being looked down on.

  11. dartis says:

    I usually meet clients in a group session, so if a client says something concerning, I ask them to stay after the workshop to discuss what was said and if there is any assistance I or their JSC can give them. If I am working with a client one-on-one, I ask them what their typical day looks like and what would make job-seeking hard for them. This usually leads to conversations about barriers as I ask more probing and direct questions. For assistance, I usually walk clients through the 2-1-1 website, and if they need it to help them call the agencies to see if they have availability and if we can get someone on the phone. Another technique is just to outright ask the clients direct questions about their schedule or scenario-based questions. Also, I give them options if they would like to talk to me or their JSC about options and how to access those options. My firm belief is that it is important to give people choices and a voice even when accessing their needs.

  12. sjones says:

    When referring jobseekers for barrier removal assistance I use 211 infoline. Jobseekers can get resources for most barriers. We also partner with local agencies that can provide assistance as well. For housing- Columbus House, Food insecurity- Local soup kitchens or pantries, Transportation- Local bus routes or Uber, Childcare- Care4kids. Some techniques I’ve use while meeting jobseekers are keeping positive, printing out resources and bringing them to the Career research lab where they could search for employment, create resumes and apply for benefits with Département of Social Services.

  13. mgeyer says:

    When meeting my customer for the first time. I ask how they are doing and ask what their interest are. Then I move into the process of our program. Most of the time the customer will begin to ask me questions and that gives me the opportunity to answer their questions and also ask some more. As in questions about barriers. This allows the conversation to go smoothly. When an individual really needs help, they will be cooperative and answer questions with truthfulness, and they expect you to have an answer for their questions as well. This when I am able to have the customer complete the application and provide me with the necessary documents to use to determine their eligibility, one that has been established, I move to have them come back in the next day and I complete the application online while the individual completes the CASAS Test. Having developed a trust from the customer, I inform them that I am working with them and not against them, they understand this and appreciate me. After this we move to the stage of completing a four-day workshop and while they complete that, I begin searching for work and passing out their resume. As for the need of housing, I direct my customer to 211 and I also make some phone calls on their behalf to a family shelter I am familiar with and another community program that helps. I know for a fact the places can help out with housing (food, clothing) and/or could help me direct my customer in the right direction. As for the lack of food, I will help assist my customer in applying for food stamps and while awaiting that response, I give them a list of food pantries and I also, sit there and call with them a few of the numbers to the pantries. I can only hold our visits for an hour, and for that hour I make the best of it with every customer no matter what walk of life they come from.
    The techniques I have found that work is being myself. I care about others, and I am always trying to help everyone do better for themselves. I know how important it is to have someone in your corner that you can trust and that will help you prosper in life. I don’t judge anyone. I was where they are, and it can easily happen again.
    Being myself and being honest with my customers works greatly for me.

  14. arivera1 says:

    I would refer this client to East Haven Food Pantry which is a local Food organization that provides families with a variety of fresh food options. This organization donates food to families and offers assistance in finding other shelter organizations.

    Techniques that I have found to be helpful during intake interviews to discover barriers are to be transparent, speak respectfully and maintain respectful facial and body language. Clients are more open to sharing when you are authentic in trying to offer assistance.

    1. awilliams says:

      Yeah I always feel like its most important to make the customer feel both seen and heard and although we do a lot of talking, are customers are always reading out facial and body cues and that is one way to make them feel comfortable. Also the East Haven food pantry is a good and reliable one good pick!

  15. awilliams says:

    When a customer has presented a concern to me I like to assess the level of emergency their concern or request is. Usually, food, housing, and childcare are my top 3 emergency level concerns. Once we have covered those barriers ( usually using resources such as 211, food pantries, or children and family services I can at least send them to providers that can help them. For concerns that are less urgent I tend to point in the direction of local schools or churches as well as the shelters nearby.

    In my opinion it is very important to make sure my customers feel safe and heard. While listening to their concerns, it is always important to give suggestions and resources to help. If I don’t know an answer I make sure to reach out to my management and colleagues for suggestions which is also useful in finding more resources. Another thing that is important is follow up. I like to reach out to my customers and ask them how they are doing with their concerns and if there is anything else I can help them with.

    During my initial intake meeting with a customer I try to get as much information from them as possible. I have a couple forms that I have created for myself with questions in regards to their barriers, housing, family situation, education level, income level and I am sure to ask them what help they need to move forward in their career. I also have them fill out a questionnaire with similar questions that focus on what their needs are as well as coming up with an employment plan. I like the questionnaire format because I can refer to it later as reference. Another thing that I do during my intake process is start the resume writing process or update their resumes. This is always first because you can’t apply for a job if you don’t have a resume. It also gives the customer time to reflect on their professional self.

  16. cquinones says:

    2. What techniques have you found especially helpful to use in an intake interview to discover barriers that a customer might be facing..
    One of the techniques I find to be extremely helpful during the Intake, is the listening technique, believe it or not. Once we review the Work Readiness Assessment, it is when we have an open discussion in pinpointing what barriers are the most challenging and even how it became a barrier. It’s important for the customer to feel safe to express, sometimes personal issues, that may make them feel, very vulnerable. This is done with no interruptions or even taking notes. Just simply listening. I always ask if it’s ok to take notes, so that nothing is overlooked or forgotten. This is a good way, of establishing a healthy working relationship. The other is having resources on hand, to be given at any moment. Having pamphlets, flyers on hand, is always helpful. They can see, for themselves and see themselves, taking the appropriate steps in handling barriers, big or small, by reaching out to the resources.

    3. Describe 1-2 techniques you use that work well for you.
    Once the barriers are mentioned, and discussed, I ask the customer to take notes of what the barriers are, and what the goal is, and what it would take to remove the barrier. This way, they have a reference, on hand, at any moment, to review and address, with or without JSC’s assistance. It’s important to demonstrate, the empowerment, and to document the steps they have taken to see the progress that has been accomplished. The computer is a great tool, with so much information at the tips of their fingers and because of technology, having a cell phone, in which they are able to obtain information within minutes. And if maintaining a cellphone, is a barrier, due to the monthly bill, I also provide a referral to a local company, who would schedule a date and time to meet with the customer, to qualify and receive a cellphone, or a monthly bill, at no cost to them.

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