The Potential in Each of Us
Brendan Bell is a student at the University of Notre Dame, who interned with Project HOME this summer. He shares his reflections on his time with us.
During my first week at Project HOME, I participated in a city-wide homelessness count in Philadelphia. With a team of four other people, we were responsible for counting persons who were living in the Suburban Station concourse. It was a shock for me to see the faces of so many people who found themselves sleeping underground at the station.
Preparing for my time at Project HOME, I had read articles about poverty, but that night, the statistics and numbers on paper became people’s faces and voices.
Growing up near Philadelphia in Havertown, Pennsylvania, I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to spend my summer working at Project HOME and learning about social issues in Philadelphia. As my internship here is winding down, I have been able to reflect on a few of the many memorable moments that taught me lessons about poverty and helped me discover ways to address homelessness.
During the same week, I attended the PECO Veteran Internship Program graduation ceremony. The internship participants were veterans who had been homeless at one point in their life. Listening to the accomplishments and work that the graduating class had done was inspiring.
Both the homeless count and the graduation ceremony, while on opposite sides of the spectrum, gave me a perspective on the work that Project HOME does and the importance of putting people in positions to succeed in order to end homelessness. Over my eight weeks here I learned ways to bridge the gap between poverty and sustainable jobs and employment.
In my assignment in both the Employment Services team and the Alumni Program, I got to know two staff members, Zoe Artz and peer case aide Zarah Teachey. Around my fourth week, Zarah and I had a discussion that helped change my approach to my internship. She told me her story, as a former Project HOME resident, who has gone through challenges of addiction to drugs and alcohol. She said that one critical moment that helped her overcome her struggles was when Sister Mary personally brought her in to Project HOME Zarah said that Sister Mary talked to her in a way that made her feel that she had the potential to change her own life and start over.
Beginning my internship, I was concerned about being able to see progress and results in every day events, but listening to Zarah’s story and others similar to hers, I realized the most important act I can do is encourage and help people recognize what they are capable of accomplishing.
From that discussion with Zarah, I gained a new outlook on my experience. Working in the computer lab, residents come in most days and work on resumes or applications for jobs, while others work on their own individual projects. Part of my job is to help those who have questions using the computer. Through conversations with these residents and alumni, I have learned about the perseverance and courage many of them have, despite encountering challenges I cannot fathom.
Throughout this summer, the residents and alumni of Project HOME have enlightened me more than I have taught them. I have been able to see many different facets of Project HOME and many different people, each one growing and developing to achieve hir or her goals. Whether it be creating a piece of art, solving a math problem, or working at a company and gaining employment, the people I have met at Project HOME have shown me the potential that each of us has.