A VITA Perspective
My name is Christine Parker, and this is my first year serving for the United Way as an AmeriCorps member—it has truly been a treat. I am an AmeriCorps member in Spartanburg, SC, where I serve as a team player at The Haven Shelter. Here, I serve with a dynamic staff assisting as a financial liaison in their Daily Living Skills/Career Development -Financial Planning program.
The scope of my job is to help each beneficiary or “house guest” individually learn to save, budget and spend their money wisely. An even greater challenge is to equip them with the necessary tools to help maintain their stability once they’ve found housing. If they’re not working, then my primary focus is to get them working by preparing them for interviews, and by teaching them how to complete an application or resume correctly, when necessary.
The AmeriCorps membership also entails doing taxes as a VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) member during tax season. They trained me how to file taxes of all kinds, and then tested me on my skills. I’ve had some tax experience in the past, but nothing like this. However, they were able to prepare me for it all! This year has been one of the best years for the United Way of the Piedmont because of the increased amount of people we were able to help this year in filing their taxes for free.
My focus and passion has always been to help people who are unable to help themselves. With years of experience working in local communities as a volunteer, area hospitals and various customer service departments, my skills have become very useful as I work with the house guests in accomplishing one goal—and that is to get them back on the road to stability.
Change begins with a decision.
– Marcus Knight
A note on empowerment
Check out this article that we’ve been passing around the office today. Reading it, we’re reminded of our own philosophy: the best way to help people is to empower them.
The Haven is much more than an emergency shelter for families. Our motto is “Home, when there is no home.” But through intensive case-management and education, our goal is to give people the tools to build their own homes.
We’re lucky to have a community who feels the same way! To read more about our services, please visit our About Us page.
A Learning Process
As the AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at The Haven, I am quite honored to have the opportunity of writing our very first blog entry on our new website. I am a relative newcomer to The Haven’s team; I came to Spartanburg in July of 2010 to fill the position of Resource Development and Marketing/Publicity for The Haven Homeless Shelter for Families and Women. Prior to that, I had only been inside a shelter once. On a field trip. To say that I had a lot to learn would be an understatement, and a false suggestion that I don’t still have a lot to learn. After eight months, I still struggle with many of the same questions I had on day one. Here are just a few…
1. How do families become homeless? For every family that comes through our door, there is a different story. The usual suspects – unemployment, addiction, unaffordable housing, and chronic poverty – make up just a small portion of the whole picture.
2. Why are there so many homeless children? In 2010, The Haven sheltered 109 kids. I can only imagine what it must be like for a child to get off the bus at a shelter, or to not have his own bed, or to never have her friends over to play. One of the most important things I can say here is that homelessness does not equal neglect. It takes great courage and even greater love for a parent to bring a family here for help, and we take that commitment very seriously.
3. What can I do to help? One of our men put it to me this way – if you are compelled to give, give without hesitation. The Haven exists on the efforts of our volunteers, and the generosity of our donors. Though perhaps it won’t end homelessness, I am inspired daily by the compassion of our community.
So, long story short, nobody is alone in misunderstanding homelessness. I hope you keep coming back to read blog entries from other staff, current and former Haven residents. It’s our way of reaching out to make homelessness an issue that we can all comprehend.
Thanks for reading!