50 years of sheltered workshops have come to an end. We’ve known federal mandate would bring us to this day, but it’s a big change for many people we serve. Thankfully, Hope Haven has been in front of community integration and career development for those we serve. “We started seriously planning to shift focus to competitive integrated employment in 2012, and My Choice Employment began in 2013,” remarks Scott Witte, Director of Partnership & Service Development.
My Choice Employment is an employment service of Hope Haven that operates with the viewpoint that people with disabilities can work in community settings regardless of severity of disability, if provided with the necessary supports. While My Choice started up in 2013, Witte recounts that community employment has been an integral piece of Hope Haven’s stance since the beginning, “We’ve always seen competitive employment in the community as what we desire for people with disabilities.”
So what’s next? Prior to the implementation of this legislation, Hope Haven support teams were hard at work preparing alternatives for individuals who previously participated in facility based workshops. These alternatives consist of community employment (often facilitated through My Choice Employment), Group Supported Employment, Day Habilitation, among others. “We have worked hard to make sure that every individual has access to a meaningful day of programs,” confirms CEO Matt Buley. The planning has come to fruition, and previous Hope Haven sheltered workshop participants in Iowa have now made the changeover to their new schedules, jobs, and programs.
As we enter this new era, it’s undeniable that future waves of change will sweep through. Hope Haven remains receptive, possesses a willingness to adapt, and will continue to advocate for the best interests of people with disabilities in the workforce. “I’m proud of the great work Hope Haven has put into this transition,” asserts Buley.