Last week I began my internship at WATCH CDC right here in Waltham, Massachusetts. WATCH is a non-profit founded in 1988 dedicated to providing housing justice in the Waltham community through empowerment and advocacy. Here in Waltham, those issues primarily deal with affordable housing and immigration. WATCH offers a Housing Advocacy Clinic open Monday and Thursday evenings that is staffed with students trained in Massachusetts housing law and equipped with information on local resources for financial, food and fuel assistance, legal services and shelters. Clients come in to the clinic faced with evictions, inability to pay rent and unsanitary conditions and the clinic helps them to demystify the laws, know their rights as tenants and connect them to affordable and helpful resources, meanwhile building confidence and leadership skills required to resolve future issues. In addition, WATCH has English language courses and participates in community organizing in attempt to create and maintain more affordable housing in Waltham.
As an intern, my duties are to run the clinic and train tenants on tenant-landlord law, aiding them in resolving their housing issues. I also update and maintain the database of tenant cases and connecting appropriate clinic clients to WATCH’s community organizing in order to pursue collective action.
I was first exposed to WATCH in the fall of 2011 when I participated in the Environmental Health and Justice JBS with Professor Laura Goldin. As part of the class, we were required to volunteer so many evenings in the clinic as advocates. What I found at WATCH was a connection to the Waltham community that transcended our Brandeis bubble and a realization that social injustice happened close to home. I continued working in the clinic as a Housing Advocate and volunteered weekly in the ESOL classes and this spring was offered a full time internship for the summer.
My first week has involved getting to know the full-time aspect of the office, as in the past I have been in only to work the evenings of the clinic and English classes. But since I have already been trained in housing laws and know how to interact with inquiring clients, I was able to jump right in to helping clients who stop by to ask questions during the day.
Looking towards the rest of the summer, my projects include researching resources in order to update WATCH’s community resource guide and calling past clients to follow-up and get them to participate in WATCH’s community organizing campaigns, since they have faced housing issues face on. I look forward to learning how to create action through community empowerment during my summer interning at WATCH.
– Mollie Lortie ’14