Having just completed my first week interning at Boston’s St. Francis House, I am extremely excited for opportunities to learn from and contribute to the organization throughout the rest of the summer. St. Francis House is a non-sectarian, non-profit organization that provides a variety of services to the poor and homeless. In addition to serving as a day shelter providing meals and an indoor space for people to stay during the day, it also provides housing, job training, medical care, counseling, and a variety of other services to its guests to further the organization’s mission of “rebuilding lives.” The organization is located in downtown Boston near the Boston Common and Boston’s Chinatown, providing convenient access for those in need of assistance.
I first heard about St. Francis House through the Brandeis Social Justice and Social Policy minor’s compilation of sites where past Brandeis students have interned. I was specifically interested in this organization because of my interest in addressing issues of poverty and homelessness. Discussing the organization with the Brandeis student who had previously interned there prompted me to contact her former supervisor, who then spoke at great length to me about his work and the organization’s mission. After this meeting, which included a tour of the services contained within the building, I was eager to work at St. Francis House.
There are a wide variety of projects that I will be involved with throughout the summer. At the moment, I am collaborating with others to develop a marketing plan for an eco-friendly bag-making business (including bags such as the ones sold on this website). Because some guests, particularly those with criminal records, have difficulty finding employment, a business is being created to employ people eager to work. Additionally, I am doing research related to an entrepreneurial course that St. Francis House plans to offer. This course would work with individuals to develop business plans and entrepreneurial skills, and I am identifying possible colleges to partner with in the hopes of combining education for St. Francis House guests with education for college students.
In the future I will be doing policy work aimed at reforming the Massachusetts criminal justice system. I also will have an opportunity to visit incarcerated individuals with my supervisor and attend court cases at which my supervisor testifies. In addition, it is likely that I will gain experience writing letters of inquiry to obtain grants for specific projects.
This week I spent a great deal of time with my supervisor in meetings. Given my supervisor’s “open door policy” welcoming guests into his office, there is a large amount of time devoted to meeting with individuals, hearing their stories, and working with them to find solutions to their problems. I found this casework particularly interesting. It was incredible to hear people reflect upon their experiences and see how enormously resilient human nature can be. I also saw how policies directly impact individuals’ lives and can bar them from opportunities such as employment or a place to live, or, on the other hand, offer them crucial monetary or other assistance.
After my first week I have already engaged with problems of homelessness and poverty as well as issues with the Massachusetts criminal justice system, and I anticipate a much deeper understanding of these issues in the future. I am excited to learn more about these issues and also develop skills related to grant writing, research, and working with individuals who are homeless.
– Sarah Schneider ’13