Community Supports Coordinator helps build independence for people with disabilities

Story by Chloe Konicki

Jennifer Matthews
Jennifer Matthews has an easy, friendly demeanor. When I was looking for her on the third floor, she approached me first and asked who I was looking for. When I told her, she ducked into the nearest room, came out again, and said, “Hi, I’m Jennifer.”

Jennifer is the Senior Community Support Coordinator at Access Living and has been working here for approximately 3.5 years. She works with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities community supports program, through which she is the case manager/social worker that provide services to people with disabilities in the MOPD program. When consumers in the program are in need of resources, they contact first the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities at 311 or call Access Living themselves.

Jennifer will initially pre-screen the consumer over the phone to obtain basic and demographic information. If the consumer is eligible and interested in the MOPD services, then an in home assessment will be conducted. During the initial assessment, Jennifer explains the four core services that are available to consumers. Homemaker services, Home Delivered Meals, Assistive Technology and Case Management. Once the assessment is completed then all information collected will be entered into the MOPD system for recommendation to the city of Chicago.

Jennifer showed me that assistive technology can be as low tech as reacher/grabber, which assist consumers with picking up items. This program contributes directly to Access Living’s mission to encourage people with disabilities to live independently at home in their communities.

Jennifer emphasized that she tries to “keep things calm” when going out for home assessments or receiving new consumer calls. When consumers call in, they can be crying, upset or just stressed out. “I first listen, then calm them down, so I can find out what the need is,” said Jennifer.

Jennifer decided to work at Access Living because she wanted to pursue a career in social work. Before working at Access Living, Jennifer was a Special Education Job Coach. Jennifer saw a need with her students with disabilities. She decided she wanted to kill two birds with one stone and do social work that focused on people with disabilities.

Jennifer stated, one of the most satisfying thing about her job is when consumers call in to say how much they like the services they’re receiving through Access Living and The Mayor’s Office for People with Disability. She stated, it reminds her that living this life is about helping others.

Photograph above is of Jennifer Matthews. The author of this piece, Chloe Konicki, is a former intern with Access Living.