This experience has been tough. I have never been so emotionally and physically drained from all the things that happen week to week. Serve. Commute. House Meeting. Spiritual Practice. Commute. Eat. Shower. Serve. I have not loved every moment of this year, but I have grown significantly. Grown through the serving, the commuting, and the community building in ways I could have never imagined. For that growth I appreciate the experience and opportunity I have been given with the Episcopal Urban Intern Program and St. Joseph Center.
Part of my growth involves my realization that I am not meant to directly serve the homeless. This is not the path God chose for me to pursue, and if it weren’t for EUIP and SJC, I never would have known that. Don’t get me wrong- this discovery does not mean that I regret my decision to serve in EUIP at St. Joseph Center- it means I’m one step closer to finding my calling.
I came to this realization through one of my clients. After six months of unsuccessful attempts to contact, I was able to catch her at her home. Finally able to hear her story. Hear about how a week after she moved into her unit, a bullet shot through her window and landed next to her and her children. Hear about how someone was murdered in her driveway. Hear about how her kids were taken away from her and how she is doing all possible to get them back. Hear about how it has been hard for her and her kids to be separated. Hear about how much her daughter desperately wants to be reunited with her mother. Hear about how the system keeps sending her daughter to hospitals because her daughter refuses to go to school and threatens to harm herself. How her daughter says these things while also saying how much she wants to be at home with her mom. And so her mom asks me, “How do you even fix the system? I can see the holes with my daughter and my housing, how do you even begin to fix it?”
I drew a blank. I didn’t want to sugarcoat it. I told her I have seen the holes with clients reentering homelessness and all my clients, including her, who request to move after obtaining housing. I told her that’s why we have to keep going no matter how tiresome it gets (and I’m tired). She has us to help her. Even though I don’t know the real answer I will help her find it.
Homelessness is a complex issue that has to be dealt with at all of its stages- but this isn’t for me. In this year I am discovering my draw to actively work with children and their parents. Whichever path I choose to pursue in my social work career, I am forever thankful for the experience I have gained from EUIP and SJC. I appreciate the relationships I have built and the constant push to think critically about social justice issues to make sense of the larger picture.
If my year has taught me anything, it’s that sugarcoating is only good for donuts and frosted flakes. This year has taught me that life is real and I need to keep pushing on the broken systems to make the changes I want to see. Change for myself, for my clients, for my people. I have been tested many times to see if I can keep going and growing and pushing through the struggle I see. It’s definitely hard, but we all have to keep trying. If we give up, there will be nothing left. In this year I have grown in that sense- to keep pushing through the broken systems to find the missing pieces.
These are reflections from corps members and alumni of Jubilee's Urban Service Programs. They cover topics ranging from the sun, fun and friends in in Los Angeles to the uncensored experiences of serving vulnerable populations in our beautiful city. These are Voices of Service.