After almost 10 hours of travel, I arrived in the Bay Area on a Monday, ready to begin my internship with the Homeless Prenatal Program (HPP). I am lucky enough have access to a car this summer, so on my first day, before I even stepped into the building, I learned about the stress of traffic and parking in the city. Located in the Mission District of San Francisco, an area known for its strong Latinx community, HPP is situated in a building purchased from a failed business during the dot-com boom. Thanks to its origins in the tech industry, the building itself is very hip with exposed piping, natural lighting, and an open layout, which HPP has paired with artwork and bright colored paint to make the site feel welcoming and friendly. On my first day at HPP, I received a full tour, signed paperwork, familiarized myself with the online software, and met the team I will be working with this summer: the DV CalWORKs advocates.
CalWORKs is the welfare-to-work program for parents with children under the age of 18 in the state of California. Typically, recipients of CalWORKs receive a monthly stipend while they are going to school or searching for work for up to 48 months. However, a significant portion of CalWORKs recipients qualify for an exemption from the standard requirements because they have experienced domestic violence (DV). HPP is contracted by the Human Services Agency (HSA) to run the DV CalWORKs program. HPP’s DV advocates ensure that CalWORKs recipients who have experienced DV receive an exemption, help them meet the CalWORKs requirements, meet with clients on a monthly basis, and connect them to other resources both inside and outside of HPP. In my role as an intern with the DV CalWORKs program, I am learning how to input new referrals from the HSA into HPP’s system, call new referrals to book appointments, and file clients’ paperwork.
The DV CalWORKs program is only one small piece of what HPP does. For almost three decades, HPP has been providing families experiencing economic insecurity and homelessness with lifesaving resources. Over the years, HPP has expanded rapidly to meet the needs of its clients and now staffs over 80 people who provide services including housing assistance, prenatal care, parenting advice, community health worker trainings, a free computer center, support groups, and financial coaching. My supervisors at HPP are really invested in providing me with a wide range of experiences across HPP’s many other programs, so I will be supplementing my internship with DV CalWORKs by shadowing the staff from other programs throughout the summer.
As someone who aspires to pursue a career in social work, HPP is a great organization to work with. One of my goals for this summer is to develop the strong cultural competency skills required to provide effective and relevant support to diverse populations. Shadowing case managers at HPP will help me achieve this because HPP serves a population primarily comprised of Latinx, Asian, and African American women experiencing poverty and homelessness. HPP is also the perfect place to achieve my personal goal of building strong relationships with coworkers and clients because the culture of HPP is one in which everyone knows everyone else and because the DV Advocate team is such a tight-knit group. To achieve my academic goal for the summer, I hope to explore the intersection of race, poverty, gender, and reproductive rights through direct service and engagement, which will inform my future studies at Brandeis. My last goal is to learn how to park.