Most students would probably like to spend their weekends either resting, catching up on their favorite hobbies, or hang out with friends. I, on the other hand, find myself trying to balance all of the above… and a little extra. Come along with me as I take you through my typical Saturday as a 2nd year MPP student, working as a part-time Support Staff member at Father Bill’s and Mainspring House in Quincy:
9:00am: After a very busy week of classes and extracurriculars, I wake up in the morning and start my house chores that I wasn’t able to get to during the week. A clean house is a clean mind!
11:00am: I finish up house chores, and then take time to go through any assignments that have an upcoming due date. When I’m planning out my weekend work, I attempt to prioritize my assignments by the day of class and deadline of assignment. I get started on some of the assignments.
1:00pm: I note whatever assignments I could not get to, in the hope that I can complete them during my scheduled shift (this is a hard hope), and then start to get ready for my upcoming shift.
2:00pm: I am all dressed and ready for my shift at the shelter. I spend time catching up with my roommates who (lucky them!) spend most of their day working from home.
3:30pm: I head out for work, as the shelter is about a thirty minute drive away from my home in Dorchester.
4:00pm: Arriving at the shelter, I greet the guests who are in line, waiting for check-in. The majority of the guests have same bed status in our shelter, but some are coming to receive a first-come, first-serve bed. I enter the shelter and say hello to my co-workers who were working the 8am-4pm shift, before clocking in for the day.
4:10pm: The people working on the 8am-4pm shift gives us, the 4pm-12am shift, a report of the day: do we have any guests who have received a warning or suspension? Are we out of any materials? Is the house laundry done for the day? Any major updates from management?
4:15pm: I check the bedsheet for any guests who may be entering the shelter late, have an approved night out, or suspension, and I make sure to mark this on the spreadsheet. After checking the spreadsheet, I go outside and begin checking guests in. Since most guests have same bed, they will tell me their bed numbers. For guests who are waiting for a bed, I ask if they are able to climb to a top bunk so I can allocate the proper accommodation. I write them in on the bedsheet by first and last name.
4:30pm: Official check in has begun. It should be four people on shift, but today there are only three of us. Another staff member and I start letting guest in pairs or groups of three. We check their bags, and ask them if they have any open food or water, any harmful items, or if they have any medication they will need to lock up. If they pass the full check in, they are allowed to enter the dorms, grab a blanket and sheet, and set all their items on the bed. For guest who have medication, it will need to be locked away in their med box.
5:00pm: Dinner time for guests.
6:00pm: First fresh air break for guests.
6:30pm: Guests are allowed to watch TV in the dining room, or they choose to get a head start on sleep. Staff spends this time in our office space, also known as the bubble, and cater to any guest needs: if they need any hygiene products or clothes, collect any mail, and guests who need to take medication, takes it.
7:30: Second fresh air break for guests.
8:00pm: Final medicine call for guests who would like to take their medications before lights out.
8:30pm: Begin filling out guest folders, taking notes if guests are in the shelter or not.
9:00pm: Third fresh air break for guests.
9:30pm: Guests assist staff with cleaning up dining room so that guests who were not able to receive a bed can sleep.
10:00pm: Lights out for all guests in the shelter
10:30pm: Final fresh air break for guests
11:00pm: We made it to the final hour! My co-workers and I normally spend time doing dorm checks and retracing the day spent.
12:00am: Overnight shift 12am-8am relief arrives, and my co-workers and I brief them on the status of day: do we have any guests who have received a warning or suspension? Are we out of any materials? Is the house laundry done for the day? Any major updates from management? After, I clock out for the night and head home.
WHEW isn’t that a shift? I bet you’re exhausted from reading all of that. For most, this may not seem like the ideal job to have as a graduate student and some may way want to know what made me agree to a job like this in the first place. As a public policy student ,I believe the only way I can make a direct impact and provide my support is when I am on the ground doing the work. Often times, shelter support staff are overlooked and most certainly can be overworked, and there is currently a shortage on these kind of workers. If a government is going to fund something, then people will have to be there to work it. These types of workers are should be thought about when implementing new structures, policies, and procedures, because we are the ones bridging the gap between the rules and the individual it was put in place to serve. With that being said, I will continue to place myself in positions that do and will make direct client to support services, because those are that is the kind of work that makes our world of social impact go around.