This Work is Hard

Guest Blogger: Paxton Leibold, Our Front Porch 2017-2018 Intern

Hurricane Harvey. Photo Credit: Olivia Vanni/The Victoria Advocate/Associated Press

Coming into this internship, I did not know what to expect. I had little to no clinical experience, I had never worked with the ‘short term’ homeless population nor clients who had severe trauma, and I honestly did not know how to do case management, let alone effective case management. However, while being a part of this organization, I learned how to do all of this and so much more. I learned that trauma can manifest in completely different ways within the same disaster, and that people are the most resilient when something tragic happens to them. From clients that have anxiety and depression, to clients that just want to move on; they are all resilient and deserve help. Another thing that I learned is that I am so irritated with how our society is ran. These types of clients (short term homeless) get little to no assistance through resources through in communities; why you ask? Because these people are physically not living on the street; per the homeless requirement in Denver, so they do not meet the criteria for government aid.

How messed up is this?

Our clients end up living with friends or family members, buying time to save money for a down payment for a house, all because they ran through their savings getting food and clothing for their family since their disaster took it all; and because they are not physically sleeping on the side of the road then they are not considered homeless; not allowing them to get the aid that they need. This is why I valued working for Our Front Porch because we stepped in when these families were out of options. I learned to navigate Denver resources, learned how to talk to other organizations and landlords begging them to help my clients who were out of time, resources, and money, and learned that people really do want to help. When they heard the client’s stories, they would really try to step up and help as much as they could or point me in a direction towards someone who could. The idea of sympathy and empathy were common themes throughout this internship, the sympathy that the community has for this population, just not the resources for them and the empathy that I had for my own clients, trying to empower them while helping them find the correct direction. However, this was the largest struggle that I took home with me. I found myself going home dwelling on the client’s stories because when I wanted to help so bad, I physically could not do as much as I wanted; and these client’s that I connected with so easily were struggling so badly in their lives, while I went home to my fiancé and an actual home at the end of the day. How can this not affect someone? My life was so much easier than theirs and I couldn’t do anything to help them because the resources weren’t there to do so. One client in particular that I connected with ended up dying (a result of the stress he and his girlfriend were going through) and I went home and cried all night because if the right resources were in place, this possibly could have been avoided; but I went home, and his girlfriend who lost her best friend couldn’t even go to a home to deal with that.

This then led me to my last learning experience at this internship, which ended up being the most valued; that there is only so much I can do, and if I can’t do it, I’ll have to be okay with it. Being a very empathetic person, I connect really easily to people and want to help as much as I can, but throughout this experience I had to be okay with not being able to actually help; and this is something that I will continue to keep with me and most likely struggle with. “If I do my best and try my hardest and there is nothing that I can do past then, then I have to be okay with that”. This internship was an amazing learning experience and I am proud to have worked for an organization like this.

 ~Paxton Leibold, Our Front Porch 2017-2018 Intern