(2) The Importance of Understanding

One of the most important things I’ve learned at Brandeis is understanding. Understanding is the ability to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. It’s the ability to put aside superficial differences and see another point of view. At Brandeis, I interact with many people from different walks of life. To succeed, you have to be able to communicate with diverse groups of people and be able to see the world from their perspective to gain a better understanding of where they are coming from. When someone disagrees with you or shuts down, it can be easy to respond with anger or become frustrated, but sometimes it’s best to step back and reorient yourself by looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective. By doing that, it is possible to find common ground and move towards agreement.

In order to move toward a caring and harmonious society, we have to be able to understand one another and practice kindness and compassion. This is why understanding is something that I always have in mind when approaching my work with Someone Cares. As a case management intern, I interact with clients from many different walks of life. Most clients I work with come from backgrounds that are very different than mine. Often they come from extreme poverty, have debilitating mental health issues, or were introduced to street drugs at a very young age. I have to be able to understand them to help them reach the goals they set for themselves regarding their recovery. 

Someone Cares Atlanta is built on empathy and understanding. It was created to serve populations who have trouble accessing essential resources, including clients who are queer, trans, HIV positive, homeless, sex workers, and/or struggle with substance abuse issues. Many of these population groups have stigmas attached, which can make it hard for them to receive the services and help they need in a compassionate and understanding environment. Someone Cares staff members take time to understand how their client’s background affects them, while also recognizing their individuality. Working and learning in this environment has enabled me to use the patience and understanding that I developed as a Brandeis student. 

Many clients I interact with are in substance abuse therapy and sometimes need assistance with tasks that seem simple to me. For example, many clients struggle with technology literacy and need help with signing into their Gmail or figuring out how to make video calls. This requires me to be patient and understand that not everyone has the same level of familiarity as I do with technology. This also applies to important things like helping them access food or housing. Some clients just need to be assisted in looking for resources and are self-sufficient once pointed in the right direction, while others need you to sit with them and walk through the whole process. My experience at Someone Cares has made me better equipped to recognize and respect the differences in people.

(1) Getting back on track with Someone Cares Atlanta

This summer I am working as a case management intern at Someone Cares Atlanta. Someone Cares is a nonprofit that works primarily with people who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and heterosexual people who are a part of high-risk groups for HIV. Someone Cares offers a variety of different services including HIV/STD testing, primary care services, and behavioral health treatment. The majority are clients are HIV positive, sex workers, and/or houseless. These populations often have trouble accessing health care and other important services. Someone Cares provides these kinds of services to help people get back on their feet and to look out for people who have nowhere else to turn.

As a case management intern, my job is to listen to clients and assist them in connecting with the different services. Many of the clients I interact with struggle with substance abuse and are low-income or no income. They often need assistance finding housing, healthcare, and employment. Depending on the client, this could just mean providing them with the phone number and address of the resource they would like to get connected with. Other times, you have to be on the phone with them or help them complete an application because they might have trouble using technology. Many of our clients do not have a readily available source of transportation, so sometimes it is also necessary for a case manager to set up transportation for them through Someone Cares or by providing them with a MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) card so they get there themselves.

The Someone Cares table at Atlanta Metropolitan State College

One of the other responsibilities of a case management intern is shadowing the IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) group that meets three days a week. This group is for clients dealing with substance abuse issues who need more support to develop positive mental coping mechanisms and substance abuse recovery skills. The session is run by a therapist or therapy intern. Clients often have questions about primary care and other services, which is why it is necessary to have a case management intern. We also occasionally do outreach events in the community to help promote our different services. For example, we went to Atlanta Metropolitan State College to do a tabled event along with other organizations. 

The mission of Someone Cares is to help people who are HIV positive, houseless, or struggling with substance abuse access resources and services necessary to their survival; my role in achieving this mission is to help where I am needed. Every individual I assist in accessing food, housing, and/or healthcare puts Someone Cares one step closer to fulfilling its mission. Success can be seeing how far the clients have come since they started the program. Often clients come in houseless without any identification, access to food, or employment. Being able to see clients obtain these things during the duration of the program is the most noticeable measure of progress. This also helps complete Someone Cares’s secondary objective of creating a welcoming and caring environment for people who may have nowhere else to turn.