'Essential care' providers needed as Cuyahoga County group home residents stay in#COVID-19

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine took time during his daily COVID-19 update March 17 to thank the state’s direct support professionals, saying they “continue to serve the most vulnerable members of our society … who provide essential direct care for our fellow citizens who are developmentally disabled, as well as the elderly community."

“This is essential care for people to be able to able to live, to get through each and every day and have the best quality of life that is possible,” DeWine said.

The staff at Welcome House, which runs 48 residential group homes in Cuyahoga County for more than 200 people with developmental disabilities, knows the value of their direct support professionals. But the programs and jobs the residents normally go to during the day are now temporarily shut down, and, like the rest of the county, they must stay in their homes.

Welcome House Executive Director Tony ThomasSo Welcome House is looking to hire 40 to 60 temporary direct support staff to help residents with their regular routines, like meals and daily tasks, and with crafts and games, getting outside for fresh air and exercise, socializing, and staying safe and happy within their homes.

“Most people go to jobs or shelters during the day,” says Welcome House Associate Executive Director Meg Nachtwey. “Now, everyone is home [an extra] eight hours a day.”

Most of the homes house three to four people, says Tony Thomas, the organization’s executive director, including a home in Lakewood with residents who have aged out of foster care, a house in Bedford, and homes in Cleveland Heights and South Euclid.

One or two staff members come to each home to assist the residents, but with the additional time at home, Welcome House needs more people. “We’re working our staff double time right now,” says Thomas. “If this goes on, we’ll see the staff begin to burn out.”

The positions pay $12 an hour to start, and the organization is looking for both full- and part-time workers. The job requires a high school diploma or GED, and applicants must be in good health. All applicants will also be subject to a health assessment, a drug test, a TB test, and a background check.

Additionally, new hires will receive paid training. And, Nachtwey says, there is a possibility of permanent employment once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. “We’re hoping when this crisis is over, we can pull these people into full positions,” she says.

All precautions for the prevention of COVID-19 spread are being taken, Thomas says. The houses are sanitized regularly, and visitation from outside family and friends has been restricted. “We’re using Facetime, Skype, and social media,” he says. “And there are no communal gatherings.”

Additionally, all staff are given gloves, and everyone is subject to daily health assessments and temperature checks.

The new hires are charged with maintaining and caring for Welcome House’s most prized assets during a difficult time, says Nachtwey. “We’re trying to incorporate fun in everything they do,” she says. “We want a high quality of life for everyone.”

Apply for the positions here or call Welcome House recruiter Doug Fowler at 440-356-2330, ext. 228.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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