01/21/2013 09:32 am ET Updated Mar 23, 2013

Breaking the Cycle

Did you ever have one of those days, when you just did not want to go to work? If your boss is nearby, you don't have to answer out loud. But it happens, right? We wake up, thinking, "I'd love to stay home today. I just don't feel like working."

But what if you really did want to work... but you couldn't? You couldn't work because you were homeless, or you have a disability that presents an obstacle, or you live with a mental illness. What if all you wanted was to be able to work, to support your family, to get yourself off the streets -- to feel successful -- but you can't? Then what?

For many people, they go into mental health treatment and begin to improve then are discharged from treatment. If that person leaves treatment and they don't have a sustainable living situation and a job then what?

Bayaud Enterprises was created in 1969 specifically to help those people who wanted a job but were facing major barriers to competitive employment, like mental illness or homelessness. In addition, gaps in work history due to the illness and/or homelessness became a further deterrent to finding work. As an additional "social issue," many people who (when Bayaud was first created) were put on hold-and-treat orders to a mental health treatment facility are now being put into jail for petty crimes like eat-and-run, thus creating a history involving the correctional system.

Through trial and error over the past 43 years, Bayaud has provided a model of employment services from creating social enterprises like a secure document shredding business to administrative service contracts with 12 federal government agencies in partnership with the national AbilityOne program. Further we provide valuable job training, coaching, placement and follow up. Last year alone we served more than 900 people, and more than 475 individuals were placed into competitive employment -- permanent jobs where they are earning a living wage.

Over the past two decades, national attention has focused on the increased incarceration of people with mental illness and the lack of alternative treatment programs for those in need of mental health care. When these discussions happen there is little attention paid to how important having a job is in relation to the life of a person with a mental illness or a person who is homeless. Not considering the importance of work while a person is in treatment or in jail often leaves the individual vulnerable to slip back into the depth of their illness or re-imprisonment.

Bayaud helps break the cycle by partnering with great companies and agencies to create opportunities to help place people into jobs in the community. Founding the "Road to Work" created a strong partnership between the downtown hospitality community and Bayaud along with the Mental Health Center of Denver as a conduit toward employment in the hotel industry.

For those of us who work on systemic change, we can literally spend a lifetime while realizing that the end result you are hoping for does not happen in your lifetime. This is the reality of integrating employment into the behavioral treatment of all people who have a mental illness, are homeless or face barriers to being able to live a sustainable life. But that is the end that Bayaud seeks for all we serve -- a job! Because we know that employment matters for every individual, every family, and every community.

If you believe that employment matters and that work changes everything, make a contribution to support Bayaud Enterprises. Check out to learn more.