Peckham, inc., obtains government contracts to employ disabled people and is affected by the shutdown.
Peckham is based out of Lansing, Michigan, and was founded by Ralf Peckham who was the head of the Michigan Rehab department. His original goal was to hire people with mental illness who faced significant barriers to employment.
Peckham opened their high tech call center in Grand Rapids 4 years ago. They are a nonprofit organization that trains and hires people with disabilities to do meaningful work at a high level of competence. These are people who our society and businesses have left behind. Have deemed unworthy of employment and the dignity that comes from being able to support themselves.
ADHD, sensory disorders, back injuries, blindness, autism, paraplegic and quadraplegia, depression, and anxiety are some of the conditions that qualify someone to work at Peckham.
Since Peckham opened here, many of these employees have become independent, bought their own houses or rented an apartment. A few have gotten married. They have moved on, finally, with their lives.
Marie was in the initial group of hires at Peckham four years ago. Since then, as many of you know, she has bought a condo, and we live with her. This condo is a blessing for us.
Marie graduated from Davenport University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Because of her disability, autism compounded by a mild brain injury at birth, she could not find a job for four years. She persisted in her efforts to find employment and sent out many resumes, volunteered for nonprofits, and eventually found limited part-time work at Mel trotter in accounts receivable.
So when the opportunity for employment with Peckham came up, she decided to go a different direction and try something new because her accounting degree was seemingly of no use. So Peckham trained her in tech support. She has real world certification. Tier 1 tech support, and she continues to train for additional certifications. She is also currently in the process of obtaining an associate’s in programming from grcc. She’s about halfway through. She’s a straight A student in this endeavor. I say this not just because I am proud of her. I say this because these are the kind of people that our capitalist system misses out on. UnEmployment among capable people with disabilities is multiple times the general level of unemployment.
So yesterday because of the government shutdown, 30 people were laid off at the Grand Rapids Peckham location. Marie’s hours were reduced to 30 a week. As the shutdown goes on, she could be laid off as well. Wednesday she had one chat in 7 hours. Yesterday 2 chats. She has training and experience in several areas at Peckham, plus seniority. Over the weekend she used two vacation days so others could work.
The government agency she primarily does support for, the US Forest Service – the firefighters who fight the fires in California for instance, has laid off most of their employees. That’s considered a non-essential government service.