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by Carol Rydell and Kathia Reynandez

Hector Ivan Morell Mendez had many years of experience working in construction in Puerto Rico, but when he came to the U.S., getting and keeping a job was a challenge. With a language barrier and little support, Hector had some seasonal work and sporadic odd jobs, but he didn’t have the stability he wanted in a job or the support he needed to be successfully employed long term.

Hector has faced many hardships. He currently is homeless and lives in a shelter. He misses having a kitchen to cook Latino food or a TV to watch sports. Hector knew he needed a job to secure a place to live and to continue to focus on mental health recovery and wellness.  

The Discovery process focuses on a person’s strengths, and Hector has some strong skills to bring to the workplace. Three themes were identified for Hector. One was in home building and repair, but he also had mechanical skills and skills in organization.

Spanish is Hector’s only language, which limited the range of jobs open to him. A Spanish business directory was used to identify opportunities for informational interviews and, at one of those interviews, Hector found a job match. Talking with the owner of an auto repair shop, he mentioned that he also had skills in construction. Bingo. The owner had a second business in construction, Gutierrez Construction and Remodeling LLC, and he really needed someone to work as a handyman for up to 30 hours per week. Hector does not have his own transportation and some of the jobs are off the bus line. When that happens, the owner picks Hector up and drives him back to the shelter. That’s how valuable Hector is.

Now, Hector is again able to use his skills to do the kind of work he loved on his island back home in Puerto Rico. His tools, which are prized possessions of his craft, are again being put to use in providing needed home repairs. He has regular work and takes pride in his accomplishments as he looks forward to taking care of whatever needs to be done during his work day. Hector will soon have the resources to get an apartment, a place to call his own with a kitchen and a lifestyle to support his mental health recovery process. Hector knows the importance that work plays in his recovery and continued wellness. He looks forward to the many days ahead of using his physical tools to work on houses and his wellness tools to work on building the life he desires.