Now that my internship is nearly over, I can say that every day at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has been unique. On behalf of the Housing Unit I have sent out hundreds of notices for position statements, rebuttals, evidence, and just about everything an investigator could need to help finish a case. I have reviewed several reasonable accommodation policies for housing authorities and condo associations so no one is unfairly denied an accommodation again. I have talked to dozens and dozens of people who felt discriminated against and wanted to file a complaint. In some cases, I wrote up those complaints for them.
There is always the important work of making sure that all of our actions are reflected in our data systems. Inaccurate data systems can absolutely derail an investigation and cause headaches down the road, so logging information is the most important step you can never forget. I co-authored the quarterly report and helped make sure that HUD paid the MCAD for the cases we investigated. Over the course of the summer, I saw how HUD’s shrunken budget made them unable to take on any new investigations, and our intakes grew and grew. What I have learned about the world of work is that your days will always vary.
I’m told by my supervisors that I have been a huge help to the department and I am going to choose to believe them. Interns matter and the work we do is important. Many offices, including the MCAD, rely on interns to help keep the ship moving. I am incredibly grateful to have worked in a place that made sure I understood the value of the work I was doing. I oversaw so many case records, did so much writing, and answered so many complainants. I might never see the final results of my work, but I was undeniably a part of so many people’s journey through the MCAD. I am now armed with knowledge I would never have learned otherwise, and I will not stop fighting for fair housing.
I did not take this internship to be thanked, but hearing it does makes me feel like I am doing something right. One woman began to choke up at the end of a forty minute call as she told me she did not know what was going to happen and she did not know why her landlord was being mean to her, but she thanked me for listening and said it felt nice to be heard. We won’t always be able to tell people what they want to hear, and the law won’t always be on their side, but you can treat people fairly and with the respect they were denied. You need to make them feel heard.
My advice for someone who wants to pursue an internship at the MCAD or in the field would be to listen more than you talk. Ask questions when you are unsure because I promise it prevents mistakes in the future. Ask questions when you are curious. Spend time with people working in other parts of the organization and see what they do.
Most importantly, never forget who you are serving. Social justice work can burn you out and it happens to everyone. What helps is to remember the mission and remember you are not alone. Your work matters, it makes a difference, and you can do it.