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


Service Provider Success Story:  Positive Resource Center

Late in 1991, a group of community volunteers decided to create a volunteer-run work referral service through which they would match people with HIV/AIDS who were not working with opportunities for part-time, temporary jobs in the community. Today, their spirit, creativity and compassionate response to a changing epidemic continue to characterize the agency that grew out of their efforts — the Positive Resource Center (PRC), which serves people living with HIV/AIDS in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Community Roots

After a couple of years, the volunteer group received a $20,000 community development block grant from the City of San Francisco to build employment services for people with HIV. Within three years, combination therapy with protease inhibitors changed HIV infection for many people, and clients began requesting an expanded employment program.

As a result, volunteers introduced computer literacy to clients, using donated computers, and began a series of group vocational workshops to help guide clients through career exploration.

In 1996, the Positive Resource program, as it was then known, became part of AIDS Benefits Counselors, a benefits counseling agency that helped people living with HIV/AIDS to get disability and medical benefits. The merged organization became the PRC. Joined together, the two entities offered a continuum of benefits counseling and employment services, responding to the evolving needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.

The agency found new sources of funding, and the program rapidly shifted from a simpler work referral service to a comprehensive, community-based vocational rehabilitation program offering:

  • Structured training in a state-of-the-art computer lab
  • A self-employment and microenterprise development program
  • Career counseling
  • Employment services
    • Job search skills
    • Résumé and cover letter writing
    • Interview preparation
    • Job placement
    • Job retention services

As time went on, relationships developed with the state vocational rehabilitation agency, the community system of workforce development, and job training and education programs.

Client-Driven Approach to Service Delivery

Spurred by clients considering a transition to work, PRC began offering regular training and education fairs with representatives from a wide range of community colleges and job training agencies. It also developed an establishment grant and vendor contract with California's state vocational rehabilitation agency, becoming the state's first HIV-specific employment preparation, training and placement agency.

Client-Focused Service Model

Working with community partners, PRC developed the Client-Focused Considering Work Model1, which combines individual and group training and counseling services. Under this model, the agency meets clients where they are, to help with well-informed decision-making within a four-phase stages-of-change process addressing four domains: medical, financial/legal, psychosocial and vocational.

Improving Services through Community Partnerships

Collaboration with a diverse group of community partners greatly extended the reach of PRC's employment services program and led to developing the San Francisco HIV Employment Services Network. As a result, city and community-based partners collaborating with PRC developed HIV/AIDS transition-to-work programs for:

  • Learning legal rights and protections in employment and housing
  • Resolving credit/debt issues
  • Addressing unique transition-to-work issues in "Just For Women" and "45+ and Positive"
  • Navigating the emotional and mental health challenges in work transitions through support groups and individual counseling

In 2010, PRC received an expansion of its contract with the state vocational rehabilitation agency to expand their reach to benefit people with mental health disabilities. This expansion also brought new resources to the agency to help sustain and develop the employment services program.

Throughout its development, PRC has benefitted from mentoring by the extensive disability and vocational rehabilitation community in the Bay Area. Today, the PRC Employment Services Program serves more than 900 clients each year, and in 2011, the program recorded a 27 percent job placement rate with 205 job placements. These included 147 long-term placements, with 55 percent in benefited positions. The average wage for clients placed in long-term jobs was $19.21 per hour.

A Risk Reduction Strategy?

In 2010, PRC partnered with University of California San Francisco's Center for AIDS Prevention Studies to deepen understanding about what employment services mean for people living with HIV/AIDS. A research study is now underway to evaluate the employment program as a risk reduction/structural intervention strategy.

1Goldblum and Kohlenberg, Vocational counseling for people with HIV:  The client-focused considering work model, Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation 22 (2005) 115–124, IOS Press.