HOMELESSNESS & POVERTY

KEENAN CASWELL - MAYOR'S OFFICE OF HUMAN SERVICES, WEEK 6

It's hard to believe that only two weeks remain of my time as a member of the Homeless Services Program. The past six weeks have provided me with priceless learning experiences, eye-opening interactions with service providers and coworkers, and a platform to continue my involvement as a community member in Baltimore. However, now isn't the time to look to what I can do in a couple of months as a student but rather to focus on what I can continue doing while I am still a part of the incredible team and working in this one of a kind environment. With the go ahead from my supervisor, my primary responsibility for the last two weeks will be leading refresher trainings over Coordinated Access with as many service providers and navigators that I am willing to fit in. Gabby sent out this update to all navigators on Wednesday afternoon, I've just returned from my first training at Loving Arms this Friday morning which means one down and 12 to go before August 3rd. For those unfamiliar with Loving Arms, it’s a community based organization that provides short term shelter and supportive services to youth who are runaway, homeless, unstably housed and/or at risk of becoming homeless, and their families. As I stepped out of my Uber in Gwynn Oak, I scanned the two houses to my left and neither were 3313 Oakfield Avenue but instead 3311 and 3315. A bit confused, I began to walk down the street to see if I could spot a sign or indication of which house was Loving Arms. Luckily, a stranger was walking towards me and before I could even get a word out he yelled out, “Brother, you look like a fish out of water. How can I help you?” After agreeing with him, I asked if he knew where Loving Arms was and not only did he know where it was, in fact, he was a navigator who would be a part of the training that I would lead 30 minutes later. Not two seconds after he greeted me on the sidewalk, we walked up to 3313 Oakfield Avenue and into a living room filled with the smell of bacon and eggs. He sat me down at the table with a group of teenagers and two counselors where he introduced me to the group. But first, I apparently needed to have some breakfast before getting started. He didn’t ask if I was hungry or worry if there was enough place for another person, he served me up a generous plate of eggs, crispy bacon, and a tall glass of OJ. This was more than a community shelter, this was a family and I was invited to be a part of it after only meeting the man 30 seconds ago. I would wrap up the training a couple hours later and say my goodbyes to the group of counselors and navigators, but I left with the impact of his generosity. He and his fellow coworkers are on the ground, day in and day out, to improve the lives of as many youth as they can handle. If the training I lead this morning is able to facilitate a more efficient process of getting these youth and their families into housing, then I’ve done my job. A job that might end in a couple of weeks as a member of the Mayor’s Office of Human Services, but will continue as a student at Johns Hopkins.

SAM PAEK - YOUTH EMPOWERMENT SOCIETY, WEEK 6

Last week was really good. I think I've started establishing more relationships with the youth here and really getting into the groove of things. The only thing I'm upset about is that just as I'm getting super comfortable and learning how everything works, I'm about to leave. It kind of sucks, because I feel like it's only recently that I've started making positive contributions to the program, and understanding how the real stuff goes down behind doors (aka case management). Nonetheless, I'm thankful for my time here and really look forward to my last two weeks as a CIIP intern. Maybe I'll come back next year to volunteer! Who knows.

VICTORIA LUI - THE FRANCISCAN CENTER, WEEK 6

“Victoria, how many weeks do you have left before you leave us?” asked Ms. D.

“August 5th is my last day, so I have two more weeks here.”

“That’s so soon! I can’t believe how fast this summer has gone. Before we know it, we’ll both be back at school studying and forgetting to eat!”

Whenever I have some free time, I like to walk around the center and talk with the other staff members should they have some time. They’re all very welcoming and enjoy it when I make conversation with them. Six weeks into the internship, I can say that I’ve gotten pretty close with some of the staff members. Ms. D is one of those staff members.

Ms. D works in the computer room where she helps our clients learn how to use the computer, write resumes and get jobs. Although she has started her family and worked at the Franciscan Center for several years, she is a student. Because she was a student, I was able to relate to her more than the other staff members.

Today after working in the food line, I walked over to the computer room to say a quick hello. We exchanged some words before I went up to my “office” to finish some work for my supervisor. But before I left, Ms. D told me that even after I leave in two weeks, I would always have a place at the Center. “You’re family now” she said. “If you ever need anything, you can always come to one of us and we’ll support you.”

It really meant a lot to me to hear Ms. D say that. I’ve gotten to know some staff members really well after working with them for so long. I’ve even got the chance to know some regular clients. I’ve been able to recognize regular clients and when I call them by their name, they grin from ear to ear. I really feel like I have become a part of this family at the Franciscan Center. I only have two weeks left at the Center, but I will be a member of this family for years to come.