Driving through the city you can’t help but notice that man on the corner or that woman bundled up at the bus stop. They are asking for money or food, and 9 times out of 10 you probably try and avoid eye contact. But I bet you always ask yourself the same questions. What is their story? How did they get to that place?
While interning at HomeAgain, I’ve had the opportunity to ask those questions. I have heard the stories and series of the events which led that man or woman to holding a sign and living on the streets. I have learned that something like losing a job can be a simple hiccup for one man, but can start a chain reaction for another. I know that field policy and theory are important, when working in social work, but I have also learned the importance of patience and empathy.
Every client has a story and each is different. Some clients have never experienced a housing crisis before, while others have been dealing with homelessness for years. With every new client, there is a new opportunity to change a life. Some feel as though there is no hope; at HomeAgain, we have the opportunity to restore faith and uplift those in need.
I have also learned a few hard lessons about this field of work: Unfortunately, there are a few clients who can’t find the strength to rebuild a life- despite the support and guidance we provide. Although it is discouraging, all we can do is try our best while never giving up on anyone. However, the majority of cases reassure us that this work is not hopeless. You can help the client who has been on the streets for 3 years. You provide them with the resources to find a job or obtain benefits. You refer them to the proper places to receive treatment while helping them regain sustainability. You connect them with landlords and assist with housing so they can succeed.
Social workers don’t do what we do for perfection or to have a 100% success rate (even though it’s what we strive for). Instead, we do our work to help others… no matter the odds. The people who have fallen through the cracks and feel like they have no one on their side, that’s who we do this for.
HomeAgain has taught me many things, and I only wish I had more time to expand my knowledge. Not only have I learned from the amazing staff here, but the clients have taught me things no textbook could ever explain. I am thankful for everything that this agency has done for me and what it will continue to do for the people it is aimed to help.