The Story of Jill Affinity House Member

A great deal goes on each day in a typical day program. As you read about Jill's day, consider how she carries out her role as a program member and the role staff members' play. Is attending the program having a positive effect on Jill? Would she be better off returning to college? The answers to these questions are far from obvious. What is the right plan for someone like Jill? Is the day program the right place for her at this stage?

Jill, 27 years old, has been a member of Affinity House for 7 months. Diagnosed with schizophrenia at 17, Jill has been in and out of the hospital numerous times, all the while trying to earn a college degree in English and journalism. Two years ago, still a sophomore, she was hospitalized again for 6 months. While getting ready for discharge, a liaison worker visiting the hospital suggested that she might try Affinity House, because she would be discharged in the middle of the spring semester and could not return to school till the fall semester some 7 months away. While still in the hospital, Jill made a visit to Affinity House and it seemed like a warm place with friendly people, so she decided to give it a try.

Today, Jill is the assistant supervisor of the Clerical Unit, where she is mainly responsible for putting out the weekly Affinity House newsletter All Things Considered. The members and staff at Affinity House were really excited when Jill told them about her studies in journalism. Even though Jill hadn't always been able to complete her courses, she had learned a great deal about creating effective newsletters. Now she had the chance to put her knowledge to good use. Helping improve the newsletter was exciting and fun. She found that her ideas were well received and really made a difference in the quality of the publication, which over the weeks grew better and better.

The hardest part for Jill was that as more of her ideas were put into practice she became the one responsible for supervising other members working on the newsletter. This responsibility was something she had not experienced before or been trained for. The Clerical Unit supervisor, Emil (also a member of Affinity House), and the staff assigned to the unit were important sources of support for Jill in her new role as newsletter supervisor. Jill found it difficult to supervise people, mainly because her first impulse was not to say anything that would upset anyone. She wanted to be liked, but she also took great pride in the newsletter. She spent some time every week speaking to Emil or a staff member about how to motivate the Clerical Unit members or how, when someone had made a mistake, she could correct the person but be supportive and encouraging at the same time. After several months of supervising the newsletter Jill was gaining some confidence in her ability to supervise and be a leader.

The first scheduled event at Affinity House each morning is the unit meeting, which starts at 9:30 A.M. sharp. Unit members meet to plan the tasks of the day, see how other unit members and staff are doing, and evaluate how things are going. Unit meetings are also the time when new members who might be trying out the unit as part of their orientation are introduced. When a new member is introduced, Jill always remembers how nervous she was when she first came to the Clerical Unit for her orientation. Today a new member named Bob was introduced to everyone. Jill suggested that Bob might work with her on the initial layout of the next newsletter.

At 10:00 A.M. the unit work begins. Most unit members are clear about the tasks they have to perform, and Jill and Emil spend most of their time supervising the members and helping out when problems arise. Staff members are usually present and either working on clerical projects or working with members on their individual goals. With the members preparing the newsletter, writing outreach letters, and preparing mailings, the unit generally has a very busy, productive feeling in the morning.

Lunch, prepared by members in the Food Service Unit, is usually from 12:00 to 12:30 P.M. Jill often eats with other members from her unit or with a staff person who she had met several years ago in one of her classes in college. After lunch several of the members and staff go outside to smoke.

In the afternoon, in addition to the units there are meetings to attend both about program operations and about things of interest to members. Jill attends a 2 P.M. meeting.

This meeting is designed to orient members who are planning to get a transitional employment position. Members learn about transitional employment (TE), share some of their past experiences at work, talk about what kind of job they would like, and find out about jobs that may be available. Jill has only attended this meeting once in the last 2 weeks, so she is still getting to know the members and working up her courage to really talk about her concerns about work. Her work in the unit has built up her confidence in her ability to hold down a regular job. During the meeting a staff person invites anyone who is interested to attend that evening's TE Support Group. The TE Support Group is for members who are out working in the community. The staff person believes that attending this group will give everyone a better idea of the issues they will face when they get a transitional employment job. Jill isn't sure if she wants to attend the evening group. She is still debating whether she should return to college or try to work, and the idea of going to the group feels too much like ruling out college.

Back in the unit, Jill sees that Bob, the new member on orientation, has left early and not finished cutting out some of the illustrations for pasting up on the next newsletter. Jill enlists another unit member, Herb, and they finish the task together. Other members report that Bob said he was going out for a cigarette but didn't return.

At 3:30 P.M. the day is over and members head out to their rides or the van. Jill has made sure the computers are turned off and the supplies locked up for the night. Jill decides not to attend the TE Support Group this evening. It's her favorite TV night and she's tired. Maybe she will attend next month.

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