With the warm weather and summer upon us, many non-profits find themselves in a time of transition as interns and volunteers are coming and going between school and travel. LUCHA is no exception. Under the supervision of Emma Epstein, LUCHA’s Supportive Service Counselor, interns serve by assisting with programming, building existing capacity to better serve clients, and build relationships with tenants. Andy DeBoer has interned at LUCHA since October 2017 as a graduate student at the University of Chicago and celebrated his last day on Thursday. Just her 3rd day on the job, Sandra Puebla joins LUCHA for the summer as an Americorps VISTA and will be with the organization for the next 10 weeks. We sat down with both Andy and Sandra to talk about LUCHA, their work, and the transitions ahead.
How did you learn about your respective positions and why did you want to work for a housing counseling agency in Humboldt Park?
S – I heard about this program a week before it started. My friend sent the job opening, and it was random! I live around here and housing is a big issue I’ve seen my whole, so this is something that hits home. I wanted to help my community.
A –The way my graduate program works is the field office sets up your internship for you. You fill out an interest form with things that you’re interested and they do their best to find an organization that best fits your profile. I wanted a connection with the Latino community here in Chicago. I had some experience in Latin America before this and speak Spanish. The field office identified that this would be a great opportunity to learn about the Puerto Rican community especially.
Andy, tell us about some of the work that you’ve been doing for the past 8 months.
A – I have been helping Emma with pretty much everything that her job entails! 80% of my work involves tenants here in the building and setting up programs. I also did a lot of research on services geared towards the population living here at LUCHA, which was primarily about services for older adults living in supportive housing. I also helped with the clients who are served through the domestic violence program.*
And Sandra, can you tell us about some of the work that you’re going to be doing?
S – I really want to focus on mental health and create programs to help tenants better care for themselves. I want to focus on education and self-care. It’s something that has impacted my life a lot and it’s something that many of my Latino and Black friends face, the stigma, and I want to change that…I want to change that [stigma] here in my community.
Andy, where have you seen the impact of your work?
A – I think what we’re trying to do in Resident Services is a build a community, and there were moments when a whole bunch of people would turn out for an event. To see people come together around a common theme, or even a meal, those were the moments when I felt like it was coming together. Emma has a really great vision for what this building can look like by creating an atmosphere of community and welcome.
*LUCHA’s Project Jumpstart is a transitional housing program that addresses the needs of low-income survivors of domestic violence.
Sandra Puebla is currently an undergraduate student at Loyola University studying Political Science & History. Andy DeBoer is a graduate student pursuing a Masters of Social Work at the University of Chicago.