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ODEP - Office of Disability Employment Policy - Driving Change Creating Opportunity


Service Provider Success Story:  Chicago House

The first HIV/AIDS housing provider in the Midwest, Chicago House has continuously evolved its services to meet the changing needs of individuals living with HIV/AIDS. As part of this, Chicago House launched its iFOUR Employment Program in 2007, after an initial pilot project in 2005 and 2006, to increase individual income and independence (the four Is) for people living with HIV/AIDS.

A Holistic Approach to Employment Preparation

In 2011, the program served participants confronting a range of barriers to employment: 68 percent had unstable housing; 54 percent were managing a mental illness; 53 percent had a history of substance use; 69 percent were 40 years old or older; nearly 50 percent held a GED or less; and 41 percent had felony convictions.

The iFOUR Program's success relies on:

  • A comprehensive employment readiness program
  • Individual career specialist attention
  • Internship opportunities
  • A unique bakery training and internship program
  • Transitions to employment support and job retention services when the candidate gets a job
  • Close community partnerships

A Four-Week Intensive Program

Six times a year, Chicago House starts 20 candidates for employment in an intensive employment preparation program. Over four weeks, candidates gain the information and tools they need to seek, secure and retain employment and reduce their reliance on subsidized services. Using the evidence-based Supported Employment model, Chicago House helps people return to work quickly while also providing the ongoing support they need to be successful once on the job. Critical topics addressed through the curriculum include information that candidates who live with HIV/AIDS especially need, such as:

  • Workplace culture
  • Conflict communication and resolution
  • Goal setting
  • Money and time management
  • Interview preparation
  • HIV disclosure and confidentiality
  • Benefits counseling and appropriate accommodation
  • Maintaining health while working

From Job Preparation to Employment Support

After completing the program, candidates meet with an HIV career specialist to develop their career goals and a job search strategy. Through this process, they decide whether to pursue full-time work, part-time work, volunteer work, job training or formal education. The HIV career specialist helps develops a work plan with each person based on their goals and skill set. Specific services include:

  • Résumé development
  • Mock interviewing
  • Job training
  • Job placement
  • Post-employment support services

iFour provides the last of these, Post-Employment Support Services, because maintaining employment can be just as challenging as obtaining it. Through Post-Employment Support Services, staff members help participants manage workplace challenges to keep their jobs and progress in their careers into greater financial stability.

FAST (Foodservice Accelerated Skills Training) Program

After completing the job-readiness workshops, candidates may also participate in the FAST training, through which they receive hands-on education working in the food service industry. FAST prepares candidates for entry-level positions in both front and back of house through a 60-hour classroom and kitchen-based training. Along with basic service skills such as professionalism, customer service, and food preparation, FAST candidates are certified in safety and sanitation as Foodservice Managers in the City of Chicago. After completing their training, candidates work with an HIV Career Specialist to secure permanent, unsubsidized employment.

Sustainable Success through Community Partnerships

Chicago House collaborates with a wide range of government and community agencies to drive continued success for its clients. These include local and state workforce development agencies, legal services and benefits counseling programs, advocates and initiatives for people with disabilities, local and national HIV and social services organizations, and university-based researchers for program evaluation.

Budget and Outcomes

The fiscal year 2011 budget was $707,871. For this investment, Chicago House realized:

  • 40 percent employment rate (unduplicated); 109 of 272 clients served, far exceeding other employment programs working with disabled populations
  • 44 percent rate of job retention for at least six months
  • Average hourly earnings for iFOUR participants of $10.94 per hour, significantly above minimum wage

Forms available for sharing from Chicago House include: intake; workshop outline; assessments and work plans; satisfaction survey; and case conference materials.