Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life as a Case Management Intern

My name is Amy Gillespie and I have been working as a case management intern for the past nine months. I am finishing up my first year of studies for social work and I am extremely grateful that folks at LPCS welcomed a student intern to grow and learn alongside the guests, volunteers, staff, and graduates of LCPS.  Reflecting on my time at Lincoln Park Community Shelter is a challenging and exciting task. I learned so much this year about myself, homelessness, substance abuse and addiction, fundraising, advocacy, and much more. 

Over the past year I have grown immensely in my professional identity, in my confidence, and in my ability to serve men and women who happen to be homeless. I have gone on an emotional journey with the people on my case load and I think I have helped them in some small ways, even if it was simply believing in them and helping them believe more in themselves.  I have grown fond of the people I have worked with--staff, volunteers and guests alike--and I am invested in their successes and struggles.

As I finish up my last couple of weeks at LPCS, I have thought about the things I will miss and the things I will carry with me from LPCS.  I will miss walking into the shelter and saying good morning to the guests and smells of cinnamon rolls wafting from the kitchen from the amazing volunteers who just cooked breakfast. I will miss hearing everyone’s stories that come to LPCS and being blown away and humbled by their incredible resilience in the face of rough times. 

I will also miss working with men and women living on the streets or in emergency shelters through the Community Engagement Program. That is where I felt I could do something immediately helpful for clients that were first hearing about LPCS. They may have come to do laundry, take a shower, have a hot meal, and escape the trials of their lives, but many simply needed to tell their story to a compassionate person. 

The vast majority of the people who happen to be homeless that I have met through my time at LPCS have been older men who are often highly motivated to improve their situation, but stuck in a system that is broken and usually does not give them the time of day. That is why it has also added a layer of reflection and perspective to my experience seeing how passionate and involved the staff, volunteers, graduates, board members and guests are in advocating for larger changes at the systemic level.

I will miss our staff meetings and potluck lunches. I will miss Linda, the Interim Housing Manager’s sassiness, and Betsy and Erin’s banter in staff meetings. I have grown to love everyone I work with and have felt totally embraced and respected as a growing and emerging professional. I will carry with me so many memories of working with guests at LPCS and how their stories have impacted me as a person and as a clinician. I have learned more from them than they probably have learned from me.   

Before I leave, I have been given the task to present recommendations to the staff on changes to one of the programs that serve our guests. I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute in this way. It shows trust and support from them that I have been given a leadership role and it is simply consistent with how I have been treated from the day I stepped inside the door of LPCS. Everyone operates out of a lens of respect for each person’s strengths, gifts and perspectives. There is enormous diversity within the population of the guests at LPCS but it is made most clear that all are welcome and that is a true blessing that LPCS offers those that become involved with the organization. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for welcoming me into such an amazing, textured, and life changing experience and allowing me to work with all of you at LPCS. I won’t forget it and I hope to be back some day in one capacity or another.

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