My name is Erica Dewan, and I am a sophomore at Xavier University. This summer I was given a remarkable opportunity of interning at Lincoln Park Community Shelter. My journey to this internship began in June of 2010, when I worked with two non-profit organizations in Liberia, Africa. Before going to Africa, I knew I was exceptionally privileged, but I was never fully aware of how fortunate I was. My remarkable experiences in West Africa led me to choose my major in Social Work. Since then, I have been searching for ways to increase my knowledge of the social work field and find ways to use my time to benefit the needs of others.
My internship at Lincoln Park Community Shelter did exactly that. The experience has helped me understand Social Work in a way that my school classes would never be able to teach.
The work that is done at LPCS is absolutely remarkable. Because LPCS only houses thirty-five guests at a time, each guest receives the attention and support they need. The staff, Guests, and volunteers all work together to create such an amiable environment. The comfort I felt working with the LPCS staff is indescribable. The staff here is so informative and knowledgeable with what they do and I was always treated like part of the team. The guests and graduates also help open my eyes to the causes and effects of homelessness. During my first year at Xavier, I learned about the many misconceptions about the homeless, but working with the Guests has eliminated all of my previous stereotypes. Not only did they give me a better understanding but they also taught me not to take anything for granted. One of the key things I've learned from working at LPCS is not to make assumptions about others. Each Guest at LPCS has a different story and different reasons for becoming homeless.
Although I've visited homeless shelters before, none of them were quite like LPCS. Unlike many shelters, LPCS stays in touch with their graduates by providing case management and support even after they leave. For example, we all know how oppressive the heat was in Chicago this summer. One of the projects I helped with was to find fans and air conditioner donations to distribute to LPCS Graduates. The Grads were so grateful that LPCS helped them deal with the heat in their new apartments. Because of this type of on-going connection, Graduates often call or drop-by just to say hello or thank you.
Interning at LPCS was an incredible experience and I am very grateful that I was offered this opportunity. I would recommend that others volunteer and support LPCS in any way possible. Unfortunately, I only had a couple months working with everyone at LPCS because I need to return to my studies at Xavier in Cincinnati, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. The only thing I would change about my experience is that I would like to have it last longer. I’ll miss everyone I met at LPCS. Thanks to everyone, both staff and Guests of LPCS who made me feel welcome and help me to better understand the problems of homelessness and how to help bring an end to it. I hope to visit again when I return to Chicago.