Career Development Forum – MontCo Works

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.

28 thoughts on “Career Development Forum – MontCo Works”

  1. v-esanders says:

    1. For housing assistance, unfortunately there are not a lot of options. In Norristown, we have a day shelter available at the Hospitality center, but unless other factors like domestic violence, mental health, or parenthood are a challenge, our county shelters are full. For food pantries, I use DHS to find a local pantry and share locations and information for the person to search for a pantry themselves.

    2. While asking the person what brings them here, sometimes they share additional challenges they’re facing. If not, I ask who they have to support them during their career transition. I also ask straight-forwardly if they are searching for additional assistance with life challenges during their job search. I let people know everything is confidential and many of us can relate to the struggles of everyday life, so it is a safe space to share. What they decide to disclose or not is up to them, but that we can best help when we know more about the situation.

    1. v-gweakly says:

      I would like to know more about how to use the DHS website! It sounds like a great resource, but I’m not familiar with it. I have found food to be a less common barrier for the customers that are looking for training compared to transportation and technology access. I also find that childcare is a common challenge for many of my customers. I would like to learn more about resources available to support with childcare, as I think this is a topic I don’t know very much about and that affects a lot of customers.

      1. dchominski says:

        I also would like to know more about this resources for food assistance. It seems like a great one and reading Em’s posts, is why I referred to Em in mine as such a wonderful resource in Montgomery County. As Gareth stated, there are many different barriers when it comes to childcare, food assistance in the county and I would love to learn more about that!

    2. V-wgarris says:

      I have to agree Em. There are not a lot of options in housing, and I had a few customers in temporary housing facilities that were only allowed to stay for a week. If they needed any time after a week, they have to request the time and the answer is not always yes. I will ask if they have a friend or family member that they can stay with, and often that answer is no, or they have stayed with so many family members or friends that they have ran out of people to ask.
      We can recommend shelters but that isn’t the most favorable option for most people and for single people without children, it is difficult to get a spot, unless there are other barriers, like mental health and addiction.
      Housing is difficult. You cannot get decent housing without a job, but you cannot focus on job search or a job if you are worried about where you are going to sleep each night.

      1. jlord says:

        I agree that housing can be tough. Our office has just been designated a code blue site so that homeless can shelter our of bitter cold. In the past I have found that housing sites have waiting lists while the needs are immediate. In y current job, I try to work on the underlying issues that have prevented them from finding or maintaining employment.

    3. v-ksymes says:

      I agree wholly Em. Housing assistance is challenging across the board. Without the other barriers that are often grouped together, strictly finding housing is near impossible. Another issue that I have come across is that families that have children in different age groups sometimes have difficulty staying together due to age restrictions.

  2. v-gweakly says:

    1. I would make sure the customer had a copy of our Support Resource Guide, which is maintained and updated frequently by our Community Outreach Coordinator, Emmett. Depending on the customer’s specific situation, location, and needs, I would suggest one or more of the 5 housing resources, which range from temporary shelter to fuel oil assistance. For any food or housing resources I recommended, I would follow up with Emmett to see if there are any tips the customer should know when accessing this resource. Although I haven’t personally interacted with most of the organizations on the Guide, Emmett has familiarity with the organizations and is a great resource.

    2. I find that many customers do not take much prompting to disclose barriers when discussing their work history or job search (e.g. in discussing why they left their last job, many customers share a physical disability, transportation barrier or childcare barrier). If a customer doesn’t talk about any barriers, I will ask a couple simple questions like “How is your job search going?”, “Do you have reliable transportation to get to our office or a job in another part of the county?” and “Have there been any particular difficulties when searching for a job?” I have also found reflection to be a really important technique when a customer discloses a barrier. By reflecting the words and tone of the customer back, I let the customer know that they are heard.

  3. v-jkremp says:

    1. For housing options, I would refer to our Supportive Service guide. It provides contact information for different services including those who are in need of housing accommodations. In addition to providing them with the guide, I would also give them our outreach coordinators information. The outreach coordinator is familiar with all of the resources on the supportive service guide and can provide individuals with more information about any of the assistance they need.
    2. When doing intake, it is harder to truly understand what support a customer needs or what barriers they experience at times. I ask questions that get a better feel for who they have as support if anyone, asking if they have anyone who has helped them with whatever situation they are in or experiences they have had. Additionally, I would also ask questions about their experiences with job search as well as any struggles they have experienced as well. Creating a comfortable, warm environment I believe goes a long way with making a customer share their situation. I also believe reiteration and reflection can emphasize a better understanding, also contributing to breaking that comfort barrier one may have when interacting with a client.

  4. dchominski says:

    1. To whom in your local area do you refer them for this assistance?
    If one of our youth needed assistance with housing, unfortunately, there are not a lot of resources. One that would come to mind is the Yale House in Bryn Mawr. They specialize in assisting young people to help them learn about how to live indenpendently. I would reach out to Em Sanders at the Career Link to ensure that all of our bases were covered and to ensure that we knew exactly what was available and what we could provide to the youth, especially if it was a situation where they needed temporary housing, like a shelter. We would also reach out to some of our business contacts within the real estate industry to see if they were aware of any affordable housing opening up in the area, and we would assist them in potentially applying. For food assistance, we would work to provide them with food assistance with the county and assist with helping them to get onto food stamps. From there, we could supplement that with supportive services for food assistance to help them get through the next couple of weeks.

    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.

    In an intake interview, it is helpful to create a good environment so that the customer feels comfortable. It is important to keep the mood light and ensure that the individual feels like can share. Asking open questions is important, ensuring that you are reflecting and making sure that they know that they are being heard. Saying, tell me more about that, is a great follow up when you want to dig deeper and to see if a barrier does exist and to try and discover it.

    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.

    1. v-esanders says:

      Dan, so glad I am not only able to be a resource for folks at my office, but at yours as well. An additional great resource for finding resources, is Community Connections. They refer folks to services across that board within our county. Secondly, I’m glad you mentioned making a comfortable environment. I always try to straighten up my desk space before bringing someone to sit down with me. Great points!

  5. V-wgarris says:

    I am not from this area, so I really have to depend on our supportive services resource guide, which we get from our Community Outreach Coordinator, and I use internet searches for help. I also work on getting more familiar with the resource listed in the guide. There are many resources for food insecurity. Many local churches have weekly food giveaways and I have recommended a few to customers.
    When doing intake, I use all of the helping skills, attending, reflecting, encouraging, questioning, and listening. I make a strong effort to be sincere in my conversation and I know when to be quiet and just listen. I have found that the helping skills work. When someone is hesitant to share, the listening and reflecting skill have help me gain insight into customer’s barriers. Truly listening lets the customer know that we truly want to help.
    I make a very conscientious effort not to judge when customers share certain events and issues in their life. Customers have shared issues in their life that are different from what I have experienced. Some stuff is not pretty but I have to do what is best for the customer as long as what they share is not something that can cause harm to themselves or others.

    1. v-ksymes says:

      We are in the same situation Wendy. Working in an area that is not your residence can be challenging when trying to assist our customers. The Supportive Service Guide is very helpful as a starting point.

  6. v-ksymes says:

    1. To whom in your local area do you refer them for this assistance?
    Within our office Em Sanders is our Community Outreach person. They are a great first resource for me. I usually ask on behalf of the customer I am working with and share the information Em shares with me.

    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.
    I find asking questions about what the goals are open the conversation to barriers that could be a hurdle. I have the resource guide we use within eyesight of where my appointments sit so while we are talking or I am working on the computer they may read it and then ask questions about the information. I am also politely direct and ask if there are other questions they may have that could be a hurdle in reaching a goal. MOst of the time they open up ontheir own and I can give information that could be helpful.

    1. jhaynes says:

      I agree with having conversations during intake can make a client feel a little bit more comfortable about there barriers. It may help them be able to identify barriers and then began to work on eliminating them with the goals presented during the intake process. By setting goals it gives the client some hope that they will be able to be succesful with finding a job.

  7. jhaynes says:

    I am new to the Montco Works Now team so I have not had anyone as of yet who needed assistance with housing or food yet. If I am confronted with this situation , I would refer them to 211 number which is the Montgomery County Your Way Home program, who would assess the situation and proceed as needed. In case of a need for food, there are several local food banks or Cupboards in there townships who provide food. Also local Churches and community Non Profit programs help with food. CadCom is another resource for food and rental assistance.
    At the Montco Work Now program, some of our youth qualify for the program because of their barriers, such as a disability, low income family or others. While meeting with potential client, I ask several questions to see what the client feel are his or her barriers besides the ones that are presented during intake with our admin. I feel like sometimes when a youth feel comfortable during a conversation, they are willing to answer questions comfortably which may get them to open up about there barriers.

    1. pscott says:

      Jonathan, I agree about accessing local churches and community non profits for human service assistance including but not limited to food. I have referred to different organizations for necessities like clothing. Just recently our office has developed a relationship with Blessing House which provided free clothing to the community. Housing though, continues to be a hug issue through out our county and so many others.

  8. pscott says:

    As many mentioned above there is not much in the county in regards to resources for housing. I believe there may be shelter assistance during code blue time when temperature’s are low; however, even that is limited. This is always a huge barrier and I truly am not sure how to tackle this and would reach out to my wonderful colleagues in this group for assistance. I have used 211 before for housing but I have also used it for other resources. If you stay on the line long enough you will be promoted with the assistance of things like language assistance, military assistance, senior resources and other human services issues like where to go for food assistance. There is a wait but a resource assistant does come on the line. As far as food I refer clients to food pantries in the area as Jon mentioned above there are many local churches and non profit organizations that provide assistance in this area.
    I have found that clients generally are open about their barriers especially adults that I have worked with. Working with youth can sometimes provide some awkward moments of not wanting to disclose their barriers so I find asking them what they think prevents them from moving forward/barriers they begin to share and will open up.

    1. shudson says:

      Paula, as I’m reading your comment, there is a current code blue. This morning, the county shared immediate needs for agencies to step up with: • where to get cots, pillows and blankets—we have a connection for donated cots and pillows; the Department of Public Safety may be able to help with blankets
      • the specifics of what your shelter will offer- total number of guests, the gender of those guests, showers, meals, etc. Single adults is easier to manage and will be the most beneficial for our community at this point.
      • a volunteer or employee base to operate the shelter overnight- we could potentially get the Hospitality Center staff to run a shelter from different locations but adding an additional shelter would be highest priority.
      It’s a challenge for sure in our county with housing, and seems like a macro issue that needs to be further addressed and eventually (hopefully) solved.

      1. hjones says:

        The Norristown Hospitality Center has been working extensively with Montgomery County and local municipalities to identify safe spaces for code blue shelters during the winter months. There have been a few rotating spaces as they are trying to lock in a permanent place.

  9. shudson says:

    As many have shared, I echo that housing is a challenge in Montgomery County as there are not many options, unfortunately. I am most familiar with Your Way Home, and since they serve the whole county, I feel like this is the best resource. Several of our MontcoWorks NOW partners offer assistance with food including Manna on Main, Keystone Opportunity Center, Interfaith Food Cupboard, Narberth Community Food Bank, Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church in Ardmore, Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities, and more. One of our newest partners, The Blessing Shop, in Norristown provides free clothing and shoes to anyone in need actually shared a very comprehensive list of community resources in Norristown and the central part of the county; I’ve shared this with my MontcoWorks NOW colleagues and am happy to share with CareerLink and EARN staff if interested. The Blessing Shop shares this list with customers in print form when they utilize the shop. In terms of techniques regarding learning about barriers that one may be experiencing, our team has a component of the Individual Service Strategy (ISS) process in which a team member asks what a youth/young adult may need help with. While a lot of barriers are often shared during this meeting, I’ve often ended that meeting with “Is there anything else you’d like to share?/Is there anything else you may need?”

    1. mhockenbrock says:

      Sara, I’m so glad you mentioned some of the specific resources in the county that provide assistance. Through this course, I have learned that it is important to have a few resources that you are aware of and learn how their process works, so you can better support your clients when they need assistance with these resources. We are lucky that our community connections are always looking to refer youth to our program because it helps us to learn more about the programs that they offer and how we can work together to set our clients up for success. We are also lucky because you are always sharing resources with us when you come across them in your work. I know that you and our team work really hard to make connections with these organizations. I also appreciate that you are able to connect our clients with these resources through paid work experiences. It is a way for our program to give back to the community that is supporting our clients.

  10. mhockenbrock says:

    As many of my classmates mentioned, the housing options in Montgomery County are limited and oftentimes at capacity. A resource that I just found recently that I would utilize or share with our clients that need assistance is the Finding Your Way in PA mobile app. The app uses your location to outline resources that provide support for those in need of food, shelter, health support, educational support and general resources. You can use filters to narrow down the options to find one that meets your needs. There are some programs that would be beneficial for youth who do not have an immediate need, but want to start the process of supporting themselves. CADCOM runs an Asset Developments Savings program and will match your saved funds for those looking to purchase a house or car, enroll in an educational program or looking to start a business. There are similar options available by community organizations that I always try to mention to our clients. I would also base my answer to this question on an individualized basis. Depending on the location of the client, there are different resources that I would recommend. We are very lucky as we can provide emergency assistance for clients in our program who are in need of food on a case by case basis.

    One of my responsibilities in my role is to determine if clients are eligible for the program. I have found it very beneficial to share my screen, so the client can see the information I am asking them for. They tend to be more willing to share any barriers they may be facing in this case. I also find it helpful to share some of the services we have available and ways we have supported our current clients. This allows the client the chance to ask questions about their specific circumstances and helps provide me with a better understanding of any barriers that they may be facing. We also meet with a lot of clients who are still living at home with their parents or going to school and meeting with us while their guardian, counselor or teacher is on the line as well. The adults will provide me with background information regarding barriers the youth is facing before I speak with them or will help encourage the youth to share them during our meeting.

    1. gstone says:

      Megan, I agree with you about talking about additional services that you can offer. Sometimes someone might not know what is available or they might be scared to ask/mention it. This could be a great way to get them to open up more about some of the struggles they may be facing. I’ve met with customers before who had no idea there were organizations in the community that could assist them or provide the resource they need.

    2. kglouner says:

      I wasn’t aware of the app Finding Your Way in PA but that sounds like an interesting app to learn more about. Some of the things I would want to know is how often they update the resources to remove organizations or agencies that are no longer providing services and adding new resources as well.

      One resource that I don’t think was mentioned were the Montgomery County “Navicates.” To my knowledge they are well rounded in terms of their understanding of resources in the County to help people with many aspects of life including recommendations for housing and food assistance .

  11. gstone says:

    1. I would assist the customer in reviewing our local resource guide to identify different agencies that could provide more immediate assistance. I would connect the individual with Your Way Home for housing assistance. I’ve called this resource with a customer to ensure they connect with a representative. While they are waiting for support from Your Way Home, I would also connect them with local food pantry information and the Norristown Hospitality Center. They may get more immediate support in the form of food, a shower, and warm clothing, before getting connected to a shelter.

    2. What techniques have you found especially helpful to use in an intake interview to discover barriers that a customer might be facing?
    I have found that a simple warm, genuine, and friendly greeting can help set the tone of the session. I try not to be overly enthusiastic or friendly, but rather I keep a softer tone. I will start by introducing myself and then asking an open-ended question such as “what brings you in today?”. I also try not to ask too many questions, as it could potentially add to their already existing stress about their situation. This will often lead the conversation towards talking about different barriers they may be experiencing. I do my best to empathize with them, demonstrate active listening and allow them the space to share their experience.

    Meeting the customer “where they are” is a helpful technique. If this person is telling me they are experiencing housing issues, that sounds like a good place to start. I would not bring up questions about their resume or jobs they are interested in applying for. I try to work with a participant on one barrier at a time, when possible.

  12. kglouner says:

    I don’t work directly with clients at this time so I am not as familiar with the resources in the County as some may be who are consistently searching for food assistance and housing; however, I would use the MCIU human resources that we have to learn more about what is available as they are constantly helping families who are in our program. We have full-time social workers who have a plethora of knowledge about what is available in many areas across the County. In addition to what this assignment is asking for they are a great resource for mental health service recommendations. What I like about asking around for recommendations is that people are able to tell you about their experience with each organization or agency and provide some insight. When you are just looking at a resource guide, for example, without any personal or anecdotal information I’d get concerned about how well the experience may go for the client.

  13. hjones says:

    1. Our county has a Your Way Home Program that provides assistance to those in need of housing and or information around transitional housing. Other agencies like CADCOM, ACLAMO, Family Services and Montco OIC also provide resources in the areas of career guidance, food resources, benefits and other items.

    2. Listening. Asking an open-ended question that allows a customer to elaborate on what they are experience and or going through. Encouraging is another aspect where having a warm and non-judgmental approach can bring about trust and allow participants to open up to you about things that they might not normally share. Creating a comfortable and open environment is also a great way to build trust with the customer as they want to be in a space that’s clean, comfortable and accommodating. We offer coffee, snacks and or visual aids with our conference room television .

    3. Having an accommodating environment and actively listening to what a client might be experiencing or going through without passing judgement or opinion. The repeating of what they shared with you to assure them that you’re listening has worked as well.

  14. jlord says:

    I would give the person our support guide and give contact info for My Way Home, The Salvation Army, The Hospitality Center, and the CO office to apply for COMPASS benefits. In talking with the individual I would be empathetic and non-judgmental. I would ask questions to see where there were opportunities to support them and meet them where they are not when I think they “should” or “could” be. I would be encouraging and supportive. Depending on their location I would refer to food banks like Manna on Main Street in Lansdale.
    I would reach out to Em who has the most frequent interactions and updated info. with our partners to see if there are other options I might not be aware of.

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