Thursday, August 25, 2011

Goodbye, Katie!

After two years at LPCS, Katie McNamara is moving on to another organization.  She wanted to take the time to say "Goodbye and thank you LPCS guests, volunteers, and staff!" 

When I was a junior in high school, our Humanities teacher gave us the homework assignment to: Intentionally put yourself in a new and uncomfortable position for a day and report back. My friend and I decided to “be homeless for a day”. We went to the thrift store and bought “homeless looking” clothes, allocated only enough money for the train ride from the suburbs into Chicago, left our wallets at home, perched ourselves in front of the train station at Madison and Canal, and begged for change so that we could get back home at the end of the day and maybe get a bite to eat. Looking back, I realize how ghastly naive this was, but I see what my 16 year old self was trying to accomplish. I was searching for some kind of understanding around what it meant to be homeless; what was the day to day experience of these mysterious folks I saw on the streets of Chicago?; is it easy to be homeless?; is it hard?; what are these people like?; should I feel bad for them?; should I help them?

Now, almost 10 years later, and having worked at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter for two years, these answers are coming into focus. Mostly, the answer is “it depends.” It’s no surprise that this is not something one can discover from a one day high school homework project, in which we received an A for effort and an F at “being homeless.” These days, as a graduate student receiving a Master of Arts in Social Work and taking on the role of Case Manager at LPCS, my “assignments” are more sophisticated, but sometimes still as uncomfortable and new. There are serious emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual challenges that our guests face; however, the most surprising aspect of my time at LPCS was that, despite the heart-wrenching stories that come through the door, it is generally a happy, loose, comfortable place to be. I’ve appreciated that our On Track Program sticks to the philosophy of empowering homeless individuals to make life changes; this fosters an environment where the infamous “burn out” of social service providers is largely avoided. LPCS was also a wonderful place to be because of our volunteers. As Volunteer Coordinator, I would often say that opening up my work email absolutely restored my faith in humanity. It was consistently filled with messages from enthusiastic, creative people asking how they can help out.

My next position will be as a social work intern at the Jesse Brown Veterans Administration Medical Center in their Addiction Treatment Program. It is frightening sometimes to consider the countless new challenges I will face in this and future jobs. However, I am comforted by my firm confidence that there is nowhere else I would have rather begun my career than at LPCS. Thank you LPCS guests, volunteers, and staff for an unforgettable learning experience.

--Katie McNamara, Case Manager and former Volunteer Coordinator


Kelly said...

Thanks for spending two years with LPCS. Good luck in your new position!! Best Wishes.

LPCS said...

Yours were some big shoes to fill,dear Katie. It's been wonderful working with you! Come back and volunteer :)