Week 1: A New Beginning – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 1: A New Beginning

Hello all! My name is Erin Abell (she/her) and I am a rising junior studying Political Science and Moral Philosophy. I had some major technical difficulties but I’m very excited to finally share about my first week of DCERP!

To me, “community” means a safe environment where you are able to be authentically yourself. It may be people that you have something common with or people who are very different but are still accepting of all of your differences. I was attracted to community work in Detroit because I was always an outsider of the Detroit communities. I grew up in Metro-Detroit so I spent a lot of time here but I knew I would not fully experience or understand the beauty, struggles, and love of the Detroit community. But, my goal for this summer is to learn as much as I can and gain more empathy and understanding for the resilient people of this city.

In the future, I hope to work in Michigan government and specifically work in and with the city of Detroit on legislations to heal this city and to uplift the residents. However, I feel like this work would not be as effective unless I engaged with the community and got a first hand account of the genuine problems residents face on a daily basis.

For the summer, I will be working with the Neighborhood Service Organization. Our org works on ending homelessness in the Oakland and Wayne counties through a holistic approach and a housing first initiative. My job as their intern is to learn about the organization, interview department heads, look into similar community orgs, and see where we can fill in gaps in our care and improve the care for the people we are serving. The work the NSO is doing is very interesting to me since I have always been inquisitive about the housing issues and redlining in Detroit.

I think my organizational skills will help me greatly in my work with the NSO and in DCERP in general. With non profit work, there are always a thousand things going on and about a thousand more that people are preparing for. There have already been instances in which I’ve needed to take the lead and organize meetings and adapt on the fly when something falls through. Every person I’m working with is juggling so many things and trying to serve an unreal amount of people so when I am organized and am able to help those people finish a job or when I can do busy work for them that they don’t have time for, it can be a small load off of their shoulders.

I do want to become more of a risk taker. Now this might sound like a very general quality to want but my goal for this summer is to step out of my comfort zone. I would love to try new things, immerse myself in new cultures and experiences. It is very easy to fall into a routine in a new city: going to the same restaurants and working from the same coffee shops, and going to the same outings every weekend. However, I want to try new foods, interact with new people, and widen my scope of the world through this city that is so culturally rich and full of life. My goal is to be able to take someone on a tour around the city and to be able to point out places I’ve gone and make recommendations to people visiting.

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