By Allegra Codamon, Summer Media Intern
Most are back at school or on to new jobs, but the 13 interns who worked at CCH this summer say they learned much while assisting the public policy, organizing, legal and development staffs.
They included Ryan Martin, a junior majoring in theater and history at Northwestern University, and Nat Schwartz, a University of Wisconsin history graduate. Both interned with the Speakers Bureau. One of their assignments was to administer surveys to families with children enrolled in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), gathering data for a soon-to-launch campaign to secure more housing and better school services for homeless families.
Ryan said his most impactful moment was during a meeting with a CCH homeless leader.
“Our conversation eventually lead into her story, and I asked her, ‘Will you tell me about the time that you were homeless?’ She said, ‘Well, do you mean when I was 15 and pregnant, or when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis?’ My jaw just dropped.
“That was the first time I became aware of how resilient and compassionate homeless individuals can be. I say compassionate because, even though she overcame homelessness, she and so many others like her are volunteering and working to find housing for those who are still suffering.”
Driving to some neighborhood schools, Nat saw run-down neighborhoods lined with abandoned buildings, with people on the street and apparently out of work.
“I became aware that people had few options to pull themselves from poverty when they were that isolated from employment opportunities,” Nat said.
Kendall Speer is a junior majoring in social policy at Northwestern. During her policy internship, she presented the housing survey at Primo House and Madonna House shelters. She also researched homeless court models. Her research will assist CCH as it collaborates with Cook County officials to start a speciality court for people charged with minor crimes related to being homeless.
Said Kendall, “Now, I see that there are so many reasons that people end up on the street that could be completely out of their control. I’m also more aware of how government systems can put the homeless at a disadvantage and make it more difficult for them to help themselves.”
Everlyne Stephens was among five law students to intern this summer, her work funded by the Alvin H. Baum Family Fund through her law school, John Marshall. Everlyne helped with community outreach, informing homeless families of school and community services. She also helped monitor compliance with a recent settlement in which the city of Chicago promised to give adequate notice and proper storage when it cleans up areas where homeless people live on the street or camp under viaducts.
Most memorable for Everlyne was something she saw while monitoring Lower Wacker Drive, around 7 in the morning.
“I saw a homeless man pull out a nice work uniform, put it on, and head off to work,” she recalled.
“This was significant to me because I hear many people who doubt the work ethic of homeless individuals, yet here was proof that a homeless man was trying to pull himself off the streets but still needed some assistance in order to do so.”
Now a second-year law student at John Marshall, Everlyne’s internship was extended to run through November.
Media intern Allegra Codamon is a Dartmouth College sophomore from Winthrop Harbor.