My name is Lauryn and I am an AmeriCorps member serving at Community Housing Network through Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness AmeriCorps Program. After studying International Development at Michigan State University, I was eager to gain any experience working in the nonprofit field. Sometimes not knowing exactly what field you want to go into makes decisions a lot easier, as you’re willing to take any experience as it comes.
After volunteering at a crisis hotline for two years, answering calls and speaking to people going through depression, suicidal thoughts, grief and sexual assault I knew I wanted to explore the human services field. The crisis hotline left me wanting more. It was disheartening to me that anonymous calls were placed and regardless of how well you felt a call went, after it was over you would never hear from the person or know how they progressed. AmeriCorps had caught my attention and as I scoured through the portal of service positions when I found Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness, I knew I had found the right position. Upon reading the description, it had everything that was absent in my experience at the crisis hotline. I would be able to connect outreach and housing, connecting people to various resources and then see how they thrived given this care and attention over a period of time.
While the focus is obviously on helping people get off the streets and into a place of their own, I try to make my service encompass so much more than just housing. There are so many factors that play into housing and the barriers people face while homeless or housed. At CHN we focus on affordability as most programs can only offer short-term rental assistance and it’s critical that people don’t immediately end up in the same situation after the program ends. This can be a difficult conversation to have, but it also allows you to work with the person to connect them with other resources specific to their needs. A lot of times people don’t realize how many resources are available to them, whether it be food banks or free diapers or mental health services. All these puzzle pieces fit together to assist in keeping someone housed and off the streets.
While the past few months have had many highlights, there have also been many low moments within the service. It can be difficult to watch someone resist the resources you’re providing them and fall back into old habits. This is what inspires me to serve. The staff at Community Housing Network are so busy with all their caseloads, it’s all too easy to not give someone the extra attention they might need. This is where CHN’s AmeriCorps members come in. We are able to be there to give that extra bit of attentiveness for those who may need it and that can make all the difference in someone’s life. With this mindset, I take each day at a time and help each person that I can to the best of my ability, which to me is what it means to be an AmeriCorps member.
I plan on using my AmeriCorps experience to start my nonprofit career. This experience has already taught me so much about connecting and working with other community and government resources, specializing care for each individual and how to work efficiently when there simply aren’t enough hours in a day. These are skills that will be useful to me wherever I go next within the nonprofit field and that I will continue to use and hone during my last few months of service.