Starting at WATCH

This week was the beginning of my summer internship. Unlike most of the other WOW interns, my internship is located a short walk from Brandeis University. Right on Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts, lies the office of WATCH CDC. WATCH CDC is a non-profit (501c-3) established in 1988 committed to promoting fare, just, environmentally-healthy living conditions for the low income, immigrant community in Waltham through advocacy and community empowerment.  WATCH Housing Advocacy Clinic serves as the go-to place for the local community for housing issues such as evictions, rent assistance, tenant-landlord conflicts, and unsanitary living conditions. The clinic advocates are students trained in housing rights and equipped with knowledge on local sources for legal assistance, financial aid, and shelters. In addition, WATCH is involved in community organizing projects that build confidence and leadership skills within the Waltham community.

As an intern, I will be in charge of the housing clinic, in which I will help tenants resolve tenant-landlord conflicts, eviction proceedings, sub-standard housing conditions and other housing problems, as well as inform them of their housing rights, empowering them to be their own advocates. As part of my work at the clinic, I will be identifying tenants with leadership abilities and creating a network where they can effectively work together to address the communities housing needs. In addition, I will be building relationships with the community and connecting community members to ongoing community empowerment projects at WATCH.

I first got involved with WATCH’s Housing Advocacy clinic the 2012 fall semester when I joined Professor Laura Goldin’s practicum. As part of the practicum, we volunteered at the clinic throughout the semester.  After the semester, I was eager to continue my work at WATCH and Professor Goldin offered me a supervising position at the clinic, in which I had to organize, train, and mentor Brandeis student clinic advocates. This spring, Erica Schwartz, executive director of WATCH, offered me a full time internship for the summer, which I accepted enthusiastically.

During my first week at WATCH, I began to get accustomed to the everyday working environment of a small non-profit. Luckily, I already knew most of the staff from volunteering here throughout the year. WATCH had recently moved to a new address and I had to assemble a new office for myself – now I have my own desk, computer, and phone.  I met with Daria, my supervisor and the new WATCH executive director, and established short- and long-term goals for my internship. I finished following up with clients that called the office during the short transition between the semester and my summer internship, during which the clinic was closed. I also started working on a letter-writing project that we wish to integrate with the clinic. In this project, clients will be able to identify their ward councilor in the local government and send them personally tailored letters that advocate for a safer and more affordable housing.

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As part of my long-term goals, I wish to learn about the inner workings of a non-profit organization and specifically I wish to engage in community organizing around housing issues, which include advocating and lobbying for our local community. Extensively working with tenants, helping in cases from start to finish, and participating in community empowerment, would help me reach a new perspective and identify my career path within the public sector.

– Shimon Mazor ‘16

2 thoughts on “Starting at WATCH”

  1. Hi, Shimon,
    Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Your internship at Watch sounds very interesting and meaningful. I also have a question for you, it seems that you have been familiar with this working environment, and do you still find some part of your internship challenging?

    Thanks!

  2. Thank you for your comment, Yifan.
    My internship is indeed familiar to me; I volunteered at WATCH since last year. However, I feel that this type of work – assisting people in their problems – keeps challenging me every passing day. For example, I had an interesting case yesterday of a woman that came to WATCH housing clinic searching for affordable housing. After we discussed her current housing situation she said that she fears that her landlord might be discriminating her based on her ethnicity and religion. She is Muslim and she said that right after the Boston Bombings her landlord, who was always on good terms with her, told her that he is not going to renew her lease and she should find new housing. Although this might not be actual discrimination she still felt that she wants to move out and not deal with that landlord anymore. This is indeed a challenging situation for me as an advocate. A regular housing search might develop to a discussion about housing discrimination and how to file a fair housing complaint. There are cases, of course, in which I feel there’s not a lot I can do to help and that both frustrates and saddens me. I think, however, that the success stories that hear about from time to time are worth all the challenges along the way.

    Thanks again for the reply,
    Shimon

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