by Ahren Cassinari-Foster
At Central Outreach and Advocacy Center, we engage with people who are experiencing homelessness and at-risk of homelessness. When doing working with guests via direct services, we see people for only a brief period of time, an hour or so, and we may never see them again. They go their way, getting their ID, birth certificate, or receiving medical care and we go ours, helping the next guest and determining how to best address the next need we encounter. Sometimes we have no way of knowing whether or not our work made a lasting difference for the guest.
One of the joys of working with people long-term in the Main Frame program is the change and growth that I get to see happen in them. Of course, some of the most important changes we observe in people are difficult to measure: when someone becomes more honest, caring, or sincere. But thankfully, some of the other profoundly important changes that I have the privilege of seeing are easy to measure: when someone gets a job, a promotion, or a raise.
This measurable sort of change happened a few months back with one of our job readiness students. He started the class about a year ago and moved relatively quickly into a work program. I was sad to see him go, as he was a great student, but I was happy for his progress towards self-sufficiency. He maintained occasional contact with us over the following months, using the Main Frame computer lab to apply for jobs, check email, and fax important documents.
But, one day, he came in and needed some assistance with a new job he had been offered. It was a supervisory position. He would be making more money and overseeing other employees on the construction site. This was a huge, concrete, measurable step towards self-sufficiency that he had taken. But there was another, maybe more important step that I believe he took that day that was not quite as obvious-a step towards more confidence and belief in his own abilities.
Many of us have had the satisfaction that comes from a supervisor recognizing the qualities within us and rewarding them. That day, that particular student did too.