As I write this blog post, I only have 6 days left at NSO and 5 days until the DCERP showcase. The time has truly flown by! As I reach the nitty-gritty and final stages of my project, I am reflecting on how many hours I have spent at my site and all of the things I have learned.
In week one of my internship, my mentor Katrina shared with me documents about homelessness in Detroit. These included annual reports of the continuum of care in Detroit, new initiatives and projects to end homeless, and new demographics of the unhoused population in the city. We had touched on the issue of homelessness in my previous sociology courses, but I learned a ton by reading about the state of this in Detroit specifically and I have come to realize how much NSO fits into it. I just looked back at my notes from reading these reports and realized just how hard COVID hit the homeless population and the organizations that support them. The unhoused are left out of many conversations and the effects of COVID are still shown here at NSO and at other nonprofits working with the homeless. Shared spaces in the building have still not opened up and many people still mask because all of the residents here are disabled and at risk of infection. Many unhoused people in the city were affected by organizations having to lessen the number of beds they offer to clients due to COVID restrictions, etc. It has been incredibly moving to see things go back to “normal,” but we need to build a community that recognizes disparities in healthcare and viral infection moving forward.
I have also been able to connect our study of the book “How to Kill a City” with my community site and the residents here. Poverty is not the sole factor contributing to homelessness- racism is a major one. As the city of Detroit and corporations continue to fail the Black community here in Detroit that holds deep roots in the area, more and more are driven out of their homes and onto the streets. It is so important that nonprofits like NSO and care networks/case management take this into account when working with their clients. People are not just the total sum of their financial decisions when they go to places like NSO for help- they are multifaceted individuals with a lifetime of unique and challenging, but also incredible experiences.
My time at NSO has shown me that “homelessness” does not look like one person or one experience. An unhoused or formerly unhoused person can come from a big family, have children they long to care for, can have a personal style and interests and passions, can have a resounding positive view on the work that the nonprofits around them do or a more negative stance, and countless other attributes that many do not consider when conjuring up an idea of an unhoused individual. Also, everyone who falls under this category is worthy of judgment-free care, regardless of their sobriety status, physical appearance, past, etc. I have witnessed this care at NSO and the value of it.
As for the work of nonprofits in general, I have genuinely learned multitudes! During the course of my project, I have had to ask for help and input from countless NSO employees and various other contacts for donations, advice, and inquiry. I have learned the importance of maintaining an upbeat, direct, and consistent method of communication because a lot of processes in the nonprofit world depend on it- partnerships, donations, event planning, etc. Relationship-building is so crucial here and this summer has been great practice.
It boggles my mind that we only have one more week left of DCERP! This weekend is our huge Community of Hope weekend for NSO. Sunday is the Day of Hope, where unhoused folks are invited to enjoy a day of wrap-around resources, food, and music at Cass Park. Some of my DCERP fellows and I are volunteering and it will be a busy but fun day. I am looking forward to seeing all of the hard work that I and NSO staff from so many departments here have done to make Sunday happen and I am anxiously awaiting to see the turnout. It has been an interesting event to plan as fliering has been very crucial for spreading the word and getting other organizations that work with housing and the homeless to share the event with their clients as well. There’s no way to get a headcount or RSVPs for something like this, so we’re all excited to see how it goes.
Thanks for reading 🙂