HOMELESSNESS & POVERTY

KEENAN CASWELL - MAYOR'S OFFICE OF HUMAN SERVICES, WEEK 4

This past week I had the opportunity to take a step out of my usual routine and represent the Mayor's Office of Human Services (MOHS) as I led my first training session for a small group of service providers who wanted to join the Coordinated Access (CA) system. Although training for the updated system, Coordinated Homeless Response System (CHRS), have yet to be scheduled as CHRS is under final beta testing before replacing Coordinated Access, my supervisor has continued to receive applications to become navigators (employees of the different service providers that work directly with the homeless population to develop their application packet and assists them during the entire housing process). For the past two months my supervisor was unable to schedule the 3-hour training sessions because of her involvement in CHRS beta testing, the development of the LEAD program, preparing the NOFA application, and simply running the Coordinated Access system. However, she noticed how familiar I had grown with CA as I developed a strong grasp of the policies and procedures, the strategies to navigate through the most common snags, and the role of the MOHS as a liaison between the service providers and the housing programs. I ecstatically accepted the offer to lead a session on Wednesday with the opportunity to lead future sessions over the next four weeks depending on how this first training turned out. As I headed out of the office Wednesday, just shy of 1:00 pm, it grew hard to contain my excitement to share what I had learned in the past four weeks with a couple of service providers who wanted to join our team. Yes, the middle-aged men and women were slightly shocked at first that a 20-year old intern was leading their training session but that quickly faded after the initial introductions and my spiel over CA’s system and goals. Within a couple minutes the few of us in the room were engaged in a quasi-conversational, quasi-question and answer format as we proceeded through the 24 page document. I not only left that training with a greater understanding of Coordinated Access, but more importantly, I left with the satisfaction of effectively providing those soon to be navigators with the information they need in order to serve the homeless they come in contact with every day.

SAM PAEK - YOUTH EMPOWERMENT SOCIETY, WEEK 4

Well, driver's ed didn't go exactly as planned.

Better than a 10% turnout, but still...when only 3 out of 9 youth make it to driver's ed for the first week of class, you know that meeting the goal of having 20 youth complete driver's ed is a freakishly difficult task. On top of that, the ones that do go are often late, so... Hopefully, the youth signed up for the next cycle (July 18) will be more consistent with driving class. I have faith!

Seriously though, probably the most difficult thing about what I do is trying not to get caught up in the cycle of every day labor and really invest myself into what I'm doing. Sometimes, the things that I do can become repetitive (and God forbid boring), but it does happen. Actually, that was my biggest challenge this week: making sure today was not just another drop-in. It really puts things into perspective and gives you a newfound respect for people that dedicate their lives to this work: how do you not burn out? That's probably a question I want answered before my time here is up.

In fact, working at YES for the last four weeks revealed a key flaw in me that I had noticed before, but did not take too seriously until now—how easily I burn out and get tired of things. I'm not sure about other people, but it seems after a month or two into things, I tend to lose motivation, forgetting my original drive and the reasons I started things in the first place. If anything, this summer has shown me where I really suck and need to improve (appreciative!).

Nonetheless, I'm honestly glad I can say I look forward to going to work every day; it's not a chore or another thing I need to get over, but something I thoroughly enjoy and care about. YES doing an important work in Baltimore City, and I am incredibly blessed to be a part of it.

VICTORIA LUI - THE FRANCISCAN CENTER, WEEK 4

After the long holiday weekend and an unfortunate onset of food poisoning, I was not ready to go back to work. I had recurring fevers and headaches, a sore throat, and all I wanted to do was sleep the day away. Going to work and having to interact with clients was the last thing I wanted to do. But I went in and told myself that I would do the best I that I could given my physical condition.

The Wednesday I returned was an exceptionally busy day. Clients were coming in left and right for food bags, birth certificates and state IDs, and many new clients came in to get registered into the system. Because it was such a busy day, the receptionist decided to let me to client intake on my own. Previously, I had only done client intake under the supervision of an experienced staff member, or I had only watched the process from the sidelines. Being able to interview clients and provide them with what they need was a step up from what I had been previously doing.

My first time doing it was very nerve-wrecking, but as I did more and more client interviews, I got more and more comfortable doing it, and I would like to believe that I improved with each interview. I enjoyed doing client interviews a lot and I hope to continue doing them in the future.

During the past month, I knew that I was making a difference in the community. It may be small, but a difference nonetheless since I started interning at the Center. However, I didn’t realize exactly how much of a difference I made until a client, Mr. S, came in. Mr. S was a client that I helped get a birth certificate a couple weeks ago when I sat in on his interview. He came in and said that he got a call from the receptionist that his birth certificate had finally come in. As I went to retrieve his birth certificate, his face lit up. He was grinning from ear to ear and told me, ”This is only the second time I’ve met you, but I’m so extremely grateful for what you’ve done for me. Seriously, thank you.”

This past week was a meaningful time. A month into my internship here at the Franciscan Center, I’ve finally realized how big of an impact my actions make on the clients here, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to help those when they are at their most vulnerable.

LAUREN ZINGARO - UNITED WAY - PROJECT HOMELESS CONNECT, WEEK 4

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This week I spent my Thursday at the Baltimore City Department of Human Resources building on Fayette street for a web training. After 5- painstakingly long- hours I am now a trained HMIS user. HMIS stands for Homeless Management Information System. The program I learned how to use is called Client Track, which allows service providers to input data about their clients. I now have access to all of the homeless participants who partook in Project Homeless Connect during the last two years. I can see what services these individuals accessed as well as any important information about his or her background and where he or she slept last night. This information becomes very important in seeing what impact the Project Homeless Connect event has on the homeless community. That is to say, if a homeless individual was new to the system upon attending the event, then we would be able to see if he or she was more inclined to receive services after spending one-on-one time with volunteer guides or if that person returned the following year to the next event. This helps to see what is working and what is not. It is clear to me that the people I have worked with at United Way and other non-profits are always trying to create innovative ways to end homelessness. These organizations work together, sharing best practices and lessons learned, in order to work toward ending homelessness and “putting themselves out of a job,” as Reverend Heber Brown would say.
I also spent some time visiting new areas of Baltimore this week. I attended a barbeque with the students who I tutor over the year in Druid Park. It was my first time being there, which was surprising seeing as it is so close to Hopkins. The backyard was filled with people who lived in the community; everyone brought a dish and we were all sitting around eating grilled chicken and sausages while talking about the massive changing going on in Remington. The students told me about the changes that would happening at the school- they would be remodeling the outside of the building. It was great to be part of the excitement and listen to the students discuss their anticipation of the upcoming transformation.
As I reach the half-way point in my internship I recognize how much I have enjoyed my time in Baltimore. I have had time to go out salsa dancing with old friends and invite over new friends for s’mores. I have spent a lot of time exploring Baltimore, and although most of that time has been spent getting lost it has helped me learn a lot about the city and how to navigate. Learning how easy it is to get around makes leaving campus a lot easier, which has been one of the greatest things I have learned this summer.