American River Residential Services Providing Meaningful Roles for Their Residents

At American River Residential Services (ARRS), they provide residents with community housing and support services in a welcoming and motivating atmosphere, with the goal for each resident to be able to live independently when they graduate from the program. One important part of ARRS’ program in helping residents achieve their goal of independent living is Vocational Wellness.  Vocational Wellness acknowledges the need for creating meaningful roles through personal satisfaction and enrichment in one’s life, which is developed through learning job skills and building on positive activities. 

Vocational Wellness at ARRS begins with an assessment, followed by providing residents with assistance in applying for an identification card, obtaining a social security card, and completing paperwork. ARRS’ Program Director, Damela Barnes, initiates the next step in the Vocational Wellness program by encouraging residents to become a Dreamcatcher.  A Dreamcatcher is a resident who, after having gone through the initial process of participating in the Vocational Wellness program, agrees to go through vocational training by working in a part-time job.  Often times when residents are first approached about becoming a Dreamcatcher their responses range from, “I can’t work because I’m disabled,” to “I can’t do a job, it’s too hard,” and even “I receive an SSI check every month and I don’t need a job, I’m fine.”  But with positive encouragement from the staff, these same residents often agree to participate in the Dreamcatchers’ program and discover meaningful roles for themselves through the job experience.  An example of this is Tamara who says, “I enjoy being a Dreamcatcher.  I work three times a week and it’s really fun. I have been working for a month now and would like to continue.”

Dreamcatchers are assigned rewarding and positive work experiences in various job positions throughout the facility, such as kitchen assistants, housekeeping assistants, maintenance assistants, office assistants, recycling, and groundskeepers. Staff members, working in their respective departments, serve as mentors to the Dreamcatchers.

The Dreamcatchers’ program is very popular at ARRS, with at least half of their residents participating.  ARRS’ ultimate goal, by providing the resident Dreamcatchers with a simulated working environment within the facility, is that it will eventually help them transition into working in the community prior to graduating from the program.  It is extremely rewarding for the staff mentors to see this whole transformation unfold before their eyes. “The experience of working with residents and seeing them succeed is simply amazing and enriching and it all begins with providing residents with meaningful roles,” said Vernon Frayna, Program Coordinator at American River Residential Services and the PHF.

Many Dreamcatcher residents love the fact that they receive a paycheck with their name on it every two weeks.  “I work as an office assistant.  My job is very fulfilling and I like working with the staff,” said Traci, a Dreamcatcher.  “I am excited about my paycheck every two weeks.  And I look forward to a rewarding career as a full-time receptionist after I graduate from the program.”

Meaningful roles created through learning job skills and working at a job gives the Dreamcatchers a reason to get up in the morning, smile, and keep up with their hygiene and grooming, and associating with others.  Vernon observed, “Because they know that people believe in them, that makes them feel good about themselves.”

The Dreamcatcher residents are thriving, feel empowered, supported and understood at ARRS by being provided with meaningful roles. Vernon reflected, “One of the best compliments I have ever received from a Dreamcatcher at ARRS was, ‘Thank you for letting me do a job and for giving me hope.’”