January 30th, 2017
An important part of HSS services is our supportive housing program for adults with disabilities. HSS owns and operates nine apartment buildings in Waterloo and Columbia with a total of 60 apartment units and has two group homes in Hecker that can each serve four adults.
This fall several HSS staff members came up with an idea to approach Home Depot for donations to build shingled, roofed patio covers for the patios at the Hecker two group homes plus some fencing to make a safe zone where residents can get out and enjoy the fresh air. Home Depot, along with their community partner Paraquad, said “yes” to HSS and not only provided funding for the materials, but they also sent a team of Home Depot staff to do the labor!
On September 27th the Home Depot team along with several HSS staff and spouses set to work to get the job done. They framed the covered roof, dug holes for the supports and shingled the roofs. On October 11th they came back and finished the fence. Now our residents hurry out to enjoy their new patio after their workday as the HSS Adult Day Training program is over. A big “thanks” goes to Home Depot, Paraquad and the HSS staff and spouses that made this happen.
January 3rd, 2017
Last year our year-end community appeal was for support so HSS could provide several community education programs. Education programs are usually not reimbursable from health insurance and since we did not want to have to charge fees to individuals that wanted to attend the programs, community funding was sought.
Thankfully, we were successful in our appeal and several programs were offered during this year including Mental Health First Aid. This program is an 8-hour course that teaches untrained persons how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. It gives participants the skills needed to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis. We were able to offer sessions to members of the public and to our own staff. We expect to continue providing this training throughout the next year.
Another program offered was Second Chances, an early intervention program for teens and parents on substance use. This six-week series addresses how to understand teenage behavior, how to communicate with teens and what to do if there is experimentation with drugs or alcohol. We have been able to host two cycles of this program and anticipate offering it again in the near future.
HSS also was able to offer a parenting skills program named STEP, an acronym for Systematic Training for Effective Parenting. This four-session class was directed at families with school-age children. HSS provided the staff and the YMCA Columbia hosted the classes. This class will be also repeated in the near future.
December 19th, 2016
Each year Special Olympics draws competitors from throughout Illinois for an uplifting track and field competition in the summer and a bowling competition in the fall. Special Olympics is a much anticipated event for many of the adults with intellectual disabilities that participate in the HSS Adult Day Training Program or who reside in our supportive housing program.
This year was no different with over 40 HSS athletes entering the competition. For track and field events the Regional competition was to be held at SIU Edwardsville. HSS had 34 athletes scheduled to compete at the Regionals but when it was rained out 13 HSS athletes were picked to go to state finals in Bloomington at Illinois State University. We were fortunate to have four medalists at State.
For the Bowling competition our athletes began practicing months before the competition at area bowling lanes. The Regional competition was in Fairview Heights and 31 HSS athletes participated and 8 athletes will advance to the Sectional competition in November. The State competition will be in Peoria in December.
Our client athletes are really happy about their Special Olympics experience. In addition to the competitions there are shared meals and activities including a huge dance in the evening. Many good memories were made for the competitors. And to make the Special Olympics experience even more special this year, the City of Waterloo honored our Olympian medalists with a recognition ceremony at the July 5th Waterloo City Council meeting.
December 6th, 2016
One of our agency’s best known programs is our sheltered workshop for adults with disabilities. Operating as part of our Adult Day Services program, the workshop provides employment and vocational training to 50-60 adults every week from Monday through Friday. At the workshop our client workers are provided with the opportunity to earn a real paycheck for their efforts working on contracts the agency secures from area businesses. Most of the work is packaging, final assembly and mailers. We are careful not to bring in work that would have dangerous chemicals or pose safety risks. Many of our workers learn work skills and are able to go out and find community employment.
Earlier this year we were concerned that all of this would have to come to an end. The federal government passed a law in 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, to improve access to community jobs for persons with disabilities. There was a real concern that the regulations to enact this Act would restrict workshops from paying less than the federal minimum wage rate if disabled persons cannot produce at the level of a non-disabled worker. This would mean that if a disabled worker could only produce 10% of what a non-disabled worker can produce, they would have to paid the same wage.
Fortunately, the final regulations were released this past July and they make it clear that as long as some reasonable conditions are met, sheltered workshops can continue to operate and pay less than minimum wage when warranted. This is good news for HSS and for our client workers, some of whom have been coming to our program for over 40 years! So the future looks good for our workshop.
October 5th, 2016
The United Way of Greater St. Louis is in the midst of its 2016 fundraising campaign. Human Support Services has been a United Way-funded agency since 1985 and this year will receive $236,000 in funding to support our programs. United Way membership is critical to this organization because it means HSS has a dependable and guaranteed source of revenue each year. Many of the services we deliver would be unavailable without this funding. Our allocation from United Way is used for general operations as well as to support the outpatient counseling program, Day Treatment and our residential programs for adults with disabilities.
“United Way helps our agency keep our services affordable and enables us to keep programs open despite funding cuts from the State of Illinois,” said Executive Director Robert J. Cole. “With their support and networking opportunities available to us through them, we’re able to help even more people. We’re proud to be a United Way member agency and I encourage everyone to support them, no matter the amount, during this year’s campaign.”
In addition to funding our organization, United Way funds 170 health and human service agencies throughout the 16-county region surrounding and including St. Louis. More than 1 million people (that’s one in every three) in our greater community receive help each year from these United Way funded agencies.
Human Support is holding its own United Way workplace campaign for our employees and we encourage all our friends and supporters to give to United Way’s campaign at their place of work or through a donation directly to the United Way. If you have questions or need more information, call United Way at (314) 421-0700 or visit their website at helpingpeople.org.