For Loretta Kinner, a home with special needs adults in the city of Binghamton has become like her own. As she helps with arts and crafts, these men and women have become like her family.

Kinner is a program manager for ACHIEVE, an organization that supports individuals with developmental disabilities. The past year hasn’t been easy for that population.

Direct support professionals have had to get creative due to limited options.

“It’s important now especially with COVID. Not being able to go out and do a lot of things during this time, so it’s very important to keep them busy, active and engaging with them because we’re here every day for them,” said Kinner.

Those lessons are more important now than ever. Something as simple as hand washing could be the difference in keeping a home safe and healthy. For Kinner, it’s also about creating independence.

It’s a job not many are familiar with.

“What we do every day, a lot of people don’t see. We’re here to assist. We’re here to help them with every day life,” said Kinner.

But Kinner’s job is more difficult now than ever. A lack of federal funding has caused a major shortage of DSP’s, causing many of her staff to work double and even triple shifts.

She’s encouraging more people to consider this line of work, which she calls extremely rewarding.

“It makes it difficult, but when you have a team that’s willing to put in the effortless hours and work beyond their regular 40 hours and pick up these shifts, it makes it easier, but you have to have a desire and passion to work here,” said Kinner.

ACHIEVE plans to host a number of job fairs in the coming months to tackle the demand head on.