September 2023: Acor’s and Y-Haven’s Win-Win Partnership

Partner Spotlight: Acor’s and Y-Haven’s Win-Win Partnership – From the September YMCA of Greater Cleveland eNewsletter

Overcoming homelessness and addiction is challenging. The relapse rate for addiction is 40-60 percent. This means that about half of people who have achieved sobriety will relapse at some point, with the risk of relapse highest in the first few months of recovery, but it can happen at any time.

Helping people overcome that challenge is the goal of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland’s Y-Haven program. Founded in 1993, Y-Haven is a residential treatment program that provides housing, substance abuse treatment, and mental health counseling to adults in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

Y-Haven guides residents through an intensive 12-week recovery program, but the program doesn’t end at that point. Y-Haven extends crucial housing, vocational, mental health and addiction support services that are pivotal in residents' journey toward rehabilitation. Residents may stay at Y-Haven as long as they need as long as they remain faithful to the program and continue with their recovery.

Transitioning from homelessness to a stable, independent life often requires that the Y-Haven resident have a job to re-enter society fully. Y-Haven is serving that need, too.

Overseeing Y-Haven’s job placement program is Syiedah Saahir-Bowles, BA, LSW, LCDC III, who holds the position of Vocational Coordinator at Y-Haven and who has worked at Y-Haven for 26 years. Syiedah adeptly aids residents in navigating job placements, enrolling for disability or social security benefits, fostering educational advancement, and elevating income levels, all of which contribute to securing permanent housing and improving the overall quality of life. Challenges often include aligning residents with suitable job roles, ensuring they don't take on too much too quickly, and teaching effective money management. A holistic approach to financial well-being is thoughtfully integrated into Y-Haven's comprehensive program.

Among the employers who hire Y-Haven residents is a standout – Acor.

Acor is an orthopedic product manufacturer headquartered in Cleveland. For more than six years, Acor has employed many Y-Haven residents. Tim Wenzel, the Vice President of Operations at Acor, collaborates directly with Syiedah to facilitate seamless job placements.

"I like to give people second chances,” says Tim. “When they come to Acor, I mentor them, not only in their professional responsibilities but also on their journey towards personal transformation and successful integration into society". 

Tim's perspective reflects a commitment to his employees. He acknowledges the challenges of seeking to place individuals with past incarcerations or limited work experience into meaningful roles. The profound impact of this approach is evident in the fact that over 30 Y-Haven residents have found employment at Acor over the years, with some progressing to new opportunities. Tim's pride in their achievements is palpable, and his aspiration for their continued success is evident. 

Presently, Y-Haven residents constitute a significant portion, approximately one-third, of Acor's workforce. These individuals contribute across various departments, encompassing tasks ranging from shipping and sewing to molding plastics and producing custom orthotic braces. The collaborative atmosphere fostered by Tim reflects not only his respect for his workforce but also his genuine appreciation for the Y-Haven program.

The YMCA of Greater Cleveland commends Acor for their steadfast and transformative partnership. Y-Haven's Executive Director, Ed Gemerchak, says, "We are grateful for our longtime partnership with Acor. Tim and his team understand our residents well. Acor is providing jobs that help Y-Haven residents get back on their feet and workforce skills to help them succeed in their future."

 For those interested in delving deeper into Y-Haven's Job Placement Program, reaching out to Syiedah at [email protected] is encouraged.

-          Megan DeFranco, 09/25/2023