Next week will mark my two-month anniversary in San Francisco. I have been enjoying my summer and spending my free time doing things like attending the Pride celebration, watching an all-female Queen tribute band on the Fourth of July, driving down Route 1 to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and binge-watching procedurals on Netflix. Amidst all this fun, I’ve also been working 30 hours a week at my internship, and some things have changed since my first week at Homeless Prenatal Program.
First, our team got a new intern, Jocelyn, who is a third-year at UC San Diego. We quickly bonded over the fact that we are both living in the Outer Sunset neighborhood and started carpooling three times a week and going to get poke bowls during our lunch break.
But there have also been more institutional changes. Shortly after my internship began, I learned that, after housing the program for five years, HPP would not be retaining the contract for the DV CalWORKs program. In fact, the entire program will be taken over by a new agency by the end of August, right after my internship ends. I am getting a unique experience to observe and facilitate the transition of the program. I have gotten to hear both from the executive staff about why they decided to pass along the contract and from the DV advocates about how they are feeling about the end. The domestic violence advocate team is a tight-knit group of women, all of whom have been meeting with clients in this role for two or more years. So, naturally, this transition has had a significant emotional impact on both the team and the clients.
My workload has also changed as the transition progresses. At the beginning of my internship, many of my tasks involved calling new referrals to schedule appointments, but now that the contract is being transferred to the new agency, so are all the referrals and clients. Many of my daily tasks now involve preparing clients’ files and sending them to the new agency. As the DV CalWORKs program winds down, there are not many opportunities for me to work directly with clients from the program. However, I have been training to participate in the intake and triage process. I studied and took a test to get certified for the Adult Needs and Strengths Assessment (ANSA), a tool HPP uses to assess all of their clients. I have also been shadowing staff members as they meet with first-time clients to assess their needs and make referrals. Ideally, by August, I will be able to take shifts doing triage on my own. This will provide me with crucial direct service experience to prepare me for a future in social work.
Working with a non-profit as prolific as Homeless Prenatal Program has provided a lot of opportunities for both personal and professional growth. Being a student of Sociology and African and Afro-American Studies, I have learned a lot about oppression and inequality on an academic level, but academic essays can’t stand-in for people’s actual narratives. It is clear that there are many disempowering forces at work in the lives of HPP’s clientele, but it is also clear that HPP offers a space for those clients to be empowered and supported through direct services and advocacy.
One of the most unique and critical parts of HPP’s model is its practice of hiring former clients and others directly from the community it serves, which supports the upward mobility of the community and promotes culturally relevant services. This is a completely different model from that of universities like Brandeis and pretty much any other industry, as well. While non-profits certainly have their challenges, like transitions, and flaws, like depending on government contracts and private donations for funding, Homeless Prenatal Program has taught me a lot about how non-profits can empower individual clients and communities.
(PS. I’m still working on the parking thing.)