COVID-era isolation affects all of us. And for people with special needs, it brings all sorts of particular challenges, many that can’t be solved with a Zoom call.
That’s why most days, you can find a bald, heavily tattooed guy, salt-and-pepper beard down to his sternum and wearing a bright blue face mask, driving around Western Washington to check in on his clients — all adults with developmental disabilities.
“I call it my ‘Melissa outreach,’” says Gino Jevdjevich, a crisis counselor with the nonprofit Sound Health. “Melissa Ethridge, she has a song, ‘Come To My Window.’ I started joking about that song at the beginning, but now I call it my ‘Melissa outreach.’”
Since the pandemic began, Gino has been making these socially distanced house calls to clients, connecting them with services, delivering medications and little gifts. But the most important thing, Gino says, has been just showing up.
“It doesn’t matter what you do in that moment but if you keep showing up every single day, telling them that you’re on their side, and that you are unconditionally going to be there in their life no matter what, that is going to give you great results,” Gino says. “Regardless if that person is telling you stuff that you want to hear or not want to hear, it’s assurance that you’re not alone in the world.”
Gino brings an unusual background to this work: He’s a Bosnian pop star-turned-punk-frontman-turned-social-services-provider. With a law degree.
In this episode of Transmission, we make the rounds with Gino Jevdjevic as he checks in on his clients. We also talk with Ivanova Smith, who works in a University of Washington office that advocates for people with disabilities.
Ivanova has intellectual and developmental disabilities herself, and she says many in her community are feeling deeply isolated and worried about losing some of the progress they’ve made in integrating with broader society.
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