Reflecting on a VSH Internship
This summer, Virginia Supportive Housing welcomed Elle Porfilio to the Mission Advancement department as a full-time summer intern. Elle completed her internship with us as part of her degree in Leadership Studies from the Jepson School at the University of Richmond, which requires students to use what they’ve learned in the classroom to reflect on and analyze their internship experiences. In this blog post, Elle shares one of her reflections.
There is a Methodist hymn that’s closing line is “No more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home.” From a young age that has encapsulated my understanding of home. It creates the vivid image of a toddler running around their home, with no fear of the destruction they may leave in their wake. As I have grown older, my sense of home has expanded to include the feelings of security and acceptance that my home has been. However, I know that my experience is not a universal one. When I think about the work I want to do, I know I want to help people feel that they too can have that sense of child-like entitlement within their own spaces. When I started working at Virginia Supportive Housing this summer, I did not realize how much my work would affirm that calling.
I have learned about the experience of homelessness, but that education has brought me more than the facts of homelessness in Virginia. From my first weeks at VSH I observed that all our work honors the dignity and agency of our program participants. Our work is not merely to house those without shelter, but the essence of our work is centered around the creation of home. Within America the constructs of homelessness degrade the individual, and makes them a monolith, but Virginia Supportive Housing moves away from that culture.
Every program is intentionally created to meet the needs of the people that we are serving. Often when people are trying to move out of homelessness, they are preached at, or shamed for their “failure”, but VSH creates spaces that clients can claim, and rest in. The right to a home is freely given, and that home is theirs until they no longer need it. It has been such a powerful statement for me to internalize, that home is a right, not a gift. It is this lesson that has clung to me as I consider the work that I want to do after graduation. At Virginia Supportive Housing we emphasize the individual while serving many, and I want to mimic that in any professional sphere that I may be a part of.
When I first learned about VSH I thought that they merely provided housing. Now that I better understand the organization, I understand that they are truly working toward creating homes that restore dignity to those who have been overlooked for too long.