HOMELESSNESS & POVERTY

KEENAN CASWELL - MAYOR'S OFFICE OF HUMAN SERVICES, WEEK 3

The simple yet powerful mantra, “work yourself out of a job”, that was shared with the CIIP interns during the week-long orientation at the beginning of June has been consistently epitomized in the Mayor’s Office of Human Services. Working the 8:00 to 4:00 shift usually means I’m one of the first employees to sign in and almost guarantees I’m one of the first employees to sign out at the end of the day. Meanwhile, the majority of the office goes above and beyond the typical 40-hour workweek, as the 9:00 to 5:00 becomes the 9:00 to 6:30 or 7:00. The first few mornings I recognized this trend came somewhat as a surprise because I expected the punch in, punch out mentality. However, I’ve become to understand the environment the employees at the MOHS have developed through their will and desire to give of themselves through their time and that’s becoming instilled in my heart. Rather then starting the day knowing I have eight hours to spend on processing applications, attending meetings, assisting navigator’s with the application process or researching topics for the new Coordinated Access system, I sit at my desk with the goal of accomplishing specific tasks over the next couple of days even if that requires a few more hours on my part. Especially when dealing with services that work alongside the homeless population, time remains one of the most valuable resources. If the extra hour or two I spent on the phone or responding to emails leads to the client’s application being referred to a housing program then it’s my responsibility as a member of the 2016 CIIP Cohort and an intern at the Mayor’s Office of Human Services to be there for that extra hour. What would I have done with that extra hour in the first place? Watched an episode of Breaking Bad? Studied an extra chapter for the MCAT? Yes, these two ways to spend those extra hours aren’t selfish or even wrong on my part, but that’s not why I applied to be an intern in the CIIP. The past three weeks has solidified my reasoning: to simply give of myself in order to attempt to make a difference in my community. For reinforcing why I became an intern with the CIIP, I would like to thank the people at the heart of the Homeless Services Program. Everyday when I sign out to the sight of dozens of empty boxes under the “time-out” column, I’m reminded of why I have been blessed with this opportunity. This summer will certainly stand out on my resume, introduce me to many people and networks that can benefit my future, personal goals, and possibly produce a coveted letter of recommendation, but that’s not why I’m blessed to be apart of the CIIP and the MOHS. This summer is a time for me to put my interests and desires on the back burner, behind the needs of those I am serving as a member of the Homeless Services Program. Although homelessness in Baltimore will most definitely be present come the end of the summer, I can continue attempting to work myself out of a job by giving up however much of my time is necessary to make a difference in the life of even one person who is in much greater need than me.

SAM PAEK - YOUTH EMPOWERMENT SOCIETY, WEEK 3

I usually love driving, but I can't say I enjoy it too much in Baltimore. Much of this week was focused on driving—not myself, but in preparing some of the youth to begin their driver's ed next week. It was just amusing because the first day of class is Monday, July 4th, and I KNOW 90% of the youth will not show up (I know I wouldn't, especially since they offer make-up classes. Lol why do you even have July 4th classes?).

Ranging from data input, to cookouts, and to renting a last-minute Zipcar to deliver some furniture to a recently housed youth, this week had no shortage of busy. Starting this week, about 11-13 youth began Art With A Heart, a program that pays the youth a small stipend to create art, which will eventually be sold at the program's store in Baltimore. The art session goes from 10 AM - 2 PM; our drop-in goes from 1:30-4:30 PM. So imagine this: at approximately 2:30, about 10-15 youth come into our building at once, demanding food, bus tokens, and anything else they need. It gets CRAZY. This week was probably the busiest week of my last 3 weeks here, but hey, apparently it might get worse. I think I might be ready now.

On top of that, on Thursday we had a freaking cook-out. A good idea on many levels, but serving 30 youth at once? It was a tall task, but we had some good food so I'm chillin'. I really love making 5 pitchers of lemonade; it's honestly the most exciting thing in the world. Couple that with fried chicken, hamburgers & hotdogs, and a bunch of "salads," you know I'm not cooking dinner Thursday night.

And to top everything off, on Friday I had to reserve a Zipcar (lol who would've thought you'd reserve a Zipcar for work cuz the main Zipcar person wasn't there). Now that was a blast. Don't worry, I didn't drive.

VICTORIA LUI - THE FRANCISCAN CENTER, WEEK 3

"It is confidence in our bodies, minds, and spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures." Oprah Winfrey

Confidence has been something I was always lacked growing up. I didn’t participate in class for fear that I would say something stupid or wrong. I didn’t volunteer to show a drill during swim practice for fear that I will perform it wrong. I didn’t want to be a leader for fear that I will lead my peers down the wrong path. Building up confidence has always been a challenge for me.

Fast forward to summer 2016, I can say that my confidence has improved over the past 10 years of my life. From being captain of my varsity swim team in high school to holding multiple board positions in clubs here at Hopkins, my experiences as a leader have definitely made me feel more confident about myself and encouraged me to take risks. As a result, I’ve grown stronger as a person.

Working as an intern at the Franciscan Center, I had to not be afraid to do something. This past week, the volunteer coordinator at the Center was going to be out on vacation from Wednesday to Friday. She came up to me and asked if I was comfortable enough to be her substitute for the three days she was going to be out. I decided to do it. I thought to myself, why not? It was a great opportunity for me to learn how the Center was run.

The first day going in, I was extremely nervous. I was taking over a job that someone has done a great job with. Before she left, she showed me all the ropes, but despite all that, I still felt lost. I had two large groups of volunteers, in addition to regulars, to supervise. I had to make sure that the dining hall service was running smoothly. Because I gave the volunteers different duties around the building, I was running around, making sure that they were doing okay. There were times when I would have to switch some volunteers around as well. After observing her and the rest of the staff members for the past two weeks, I thought that I would be able to handle it. It was a very stressful time, but I believe that I did well, considering that the building has yet to burn down.

When one does something for the first time, it is okay to be nervous and it is okay if everything doesn’t go perfectly. That’s how life is. Nothing goes the way you want it to, ever. I didn’t expect everything to go smoothly, but I did come out of the experience with a valuable lesson. I learned that while being confident is essential to taking risks and trying new things, you’re not going to be successful without the support of others. Without the rest of the staff members and regular volunteers, I wouldn’t have been able to run the dining hall service. Without the help of the staff members, I probably would’ve hid in the background feeling helpless. In a world like this, it is impossible to be successful without help. Success comes from a group of people that are willing to help each other out. It needs a team, and that’s exactly what the Franciscan Center staff is. They are a team, willing to step in for one another. And I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this team.

LAUREN ZINGARO - UNITED WAY - PROJECT HOMELESS CONNECT, WEEK 3

Last week I was able to tour the Baltimore Convention Center with members from the American Dentists Care Foundation, as well as other members of the Project Homeless Connect team. After weeks of incessant phone calls and emails I was beginning to forget the objective of my work, and the event was feeling less and less like a tangible goal. However, when we walked through the sliding glass doors and down the escalator to the giant halls where the event would take place in September, it all started to come to life. The space spans hundreds of thousands of square feet that will be filled with approximately 6,000 participants and volunteers. I actually walked passed the spot where dentists will be pulling teeth and through the path that volunteers would use to walk homeless participants to different service providers. As each week passes I grow more excited about the prospect of seeing this massive clinic and service event in action, and touring the space helped me envision where I will be in late September.

Another highlight from last week was the Baltimore Bites session; I really enjoyed learning about the education to incarceration pipeline. I have personally worked with students in Baltimore high schools, both private and public schools alike, and have been privy to the stark differences between the two. Interestingly enough, this discussion also tied in with the Bites session from the week before, when we discussed the rapid changing of communities in Baltimore, like Remington. The Community School, where I work during the year, is a small private school located in the Remington community, and I have witnessed this significant change take place. The area has changed to the point that many of the students who attend the school are no longer able to live in the community, and have to commute long distances in order to make it to class in the morning. It is disheartening to think of the difference between the education I received as compared to many other students in this city. I was dropped off and picked up from school by my mother and went to a good public school in New Jersey, a luxury I did not fully recognize at the time. Although we joke that these talks can get very cynical, I really enjoy learning more about the many facets that make up Baltimore. Then, when people from home ask me for the 500th time if I “feel safe living in Baltimore” I have developed a vocabulary and I am able to articulate the experiences I have had in Baltimore and what I have learned about the problems that still afflict Baltimore today.