Basic yet big dreams: Jerome’s story

October 20th, 2020
Jerome Miller

Jerome Miller has basic goals that would be big accomplishments, given all he has had to overcome.

“I want a place of my own that’s decent and safe, and I want a car to get around and to work,” said Jerome, 28.

Jerome did not have a proper job until recently. He had been working at a gas station near the apartment building where he stays with his father. The gas station paid him a flat fee per day to do cleanup and odd jobs. The business took advantage of Jerome’s diligence and diffidence. He worked almost every day and made less than $5 an hour.

Jerome wanted to change his life, but was unsure how to proceed. In May, he connected with Rodney Averett, an Employment Specialist with Southwest Solutions’ supported employment program. The program serves adults who are receiving mental health services at our outpatient clinic, and who are seeking work.

Despite the Covid crisis, Rodney knew that retail outlets were still hiring, and he persuaded Jerome that the right retail job would be a good fit for him. After Rodney learned about job openings at Target, he helped Jerome apply. Jerome was hired and went through training in August. He works about 30 hours a week, making $15 an hour.

“This is the first real job that Jerome has had, and we talk about good work habits and attitude, and interacting with co-workers and customers,” Rodney said. “The HR director at the store has told me that Jerome is doing very well.”

To get to the Dearborn store and back to his west-side apartment, Jerome takes the bus. Jerome has lived in the building with his father for six years. He says there are many problems in the building, including drug use. So Jerome keeps to himself and dreams of the time he can move out.

Jerome has experienced substantial family and housing insecurity in his life. His mother left when he was a child. In high school, he and his father lived in shelters. Despite the instability, he graduated. Jerome now hopes to get additional education and training so he can become an IT technician someday.

“I’m feeling optimistic about the future,” Jerome said. “I didn’t feel that way before. Because of my situation, I didn’t have self-confidence. But the job at the store now has helped me gain confidence. I feel fortunate to have this opportunity and I’m really enjoying it.”

Jerome’s counselor at Southwest Solutions is Mike Davisson. Mike has seen a definite increase in Jerome’s self-esteem through employment and therapy, in which Mike is helping Jerome to understand how his past experiences have shaped him and how he can continue to develop a sense of independence and self-efficacy.

Jerome is one of 200 clients in our Integrated Health Services program, which is a partnership with Covenant Community Care to address the mental and medical needs of clients. Dr. Stephanie Stevenson is his psychiatrist, and Dr. David Gryniewicz of Covenant Community Care serves as his primary care physician. In addition, Jerome is working with a financial coach at Southwest Solutions, Brooke Ratcliff. Brooke is helping Jerome to fix his credit and to learn how to budget and save.

“I know I have to get my finances in order to achieve the independence I want,” Jerome said.



Our supported employment services are formally called the Individual Placement and Support – Supported Employment (IPS-SE) program. IPS-SE is supported through Medicaid billing processed by DWIHN. For more information about the program, email Barbara Gray, IPS-SE Program Manager at Southwest Solutions.

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