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C.O. organizations seek workers to coach, help care for people with disabilities

(Update: Adding video, comments from organizations)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- According to the Opportunity Foundation of Central Oregon and Employment First Central Oregon, people with intellectual and development disabilities are not receiving the type of support they need.

Without proper staffing, Employment First Central Oregon agent John Livingston says they don’t have enough coaches to offer guidance to people with disabilities.

"We’re not able to place them in the jobs, because we don’t have somebody to support them," he said Wednesday.

Livingston also said that one of his goals is to raise greater awareness of this need in the community.

“People don’t know how to interact with somebody they see that has down syndrome,” Livingston said.

Instead of disengaging from the disabled community, Livingston encourages people to ask more questions. He adds that the coach position doesn't require prior training -- other agencies provide that.

In spite of being a very flexible job that's not too demanding, Livingston says the lack of staffing is affecting agencies across Central Oregon.

“The beauty of it is that in Central Oregon there’s a staffing shortage, and we’ve got a pool of folks that are able to work and are good employees, with supports," Livingston said. "It’s just a struggle finding people that are willing to do the work.“

Employment First Central Oregon works with a network of agencies that gear their efforts toward serving people with disabilities. One of those agencies is the Opportunity Foundation, whose goal is to help disabled members attain jobs and operate successfully.

The foundation also operates two large thrift stores that serve as a training ground for people with disabilities and run nine residential care homes in Redmond. While they also need more community support, they're searching specifically for caregivers.

“The biggest immediate need is to find the caregiver that works in one of the homes that we support people in," Opportunity Foundation Business Relations Director Lew England said.

England says they would like to employ more than 150 people in the programs and have about 30-40 vacancies depending on the day. He adds that because there's a staff shortage, the individuals cared for aren't able to do things they previously could, such as recreational activities.

On that same token, the agency isn’t looking for just anybody. England highlights the type of audience he's interested in pulling workers from.

“People that care for other people that want to see them succeed. People that like to have a positive impact on other people, and really somebody that just has a little bit of flexibility in their schedule," England said.

England mentioned that the Opportunity Foundation is hosting a hiring event next week and will be offering a $1,000 new hire bonus. The event will take place at the Opportunity Foundation Thrift Store in Redmond.

In response to the state-wide shortage of support for individuals with disabilities, both groups have worked with the state to create a website- -- for people to go to and find supporting jobs in different agencies.

They hope to encourage the Central Oregon community to play a bigger role in the solution.

Article Topic Follows: Central Oregon

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Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.


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