The blog series “Day in the Life” seeks to illustrate what it’s like to be a Serve Philadelphia VISTA. In the posts, current corps members explore what they’re learning from their position, how they’re contributing to their office, and what it means to do a year of service.
October 24, 2017
From my seat on the 6th floor of the Municipal Services Building, I can see out of the top half of two large windows. I moved to a new desk last week, so this luxurious view of the sky is new for me. In packing up for my 7 floor migration, I was able to take a fairly literal inventory of the work I have done in my two and a half months as the Healthy Housing and Homelessness Prevention Coordinator VISTA for Health and Human Services (a phrase that, after much practice, I can now occasionally say successfully without stuttering.)
I put some pens and notebooks in a box, piled on top of my slightly overstuffed red binder that had come from the VISTA working in my position before me, a “transition binder” full of background information, documents I might need to look back on, and guides on how to compile research, or when to start preparing for a particular meeting. The binder is full of concepts, terms, graphs, and abbreviations that, once overwhelmingly mysterious, now actually mean something to me. Mostly, though, what I had to pack up was stacks of paper. Each stack is for a different project that I’m contributing work to. One for a lead remediation pilot, one for Housing Cabinet meetings, one for facilitating data sharing within HHS, one for the Mayor’s Task Force on Eviction Prevention and Response, one for Shared Public Spaces meetings, one for opioid task force implementation meetings.
Now, with the piles once again situated side by side on my desk, I take down from the top of the “Eviction Task Force” pile a packet of materials from our most recent planning meeting. To put this packet together, I wrote up an agenda, communicated with other meeting attendees about what they needed to do to prepare, wrote up documents to guide future work, compiled notes from the previous meeting, and checked everything over with my supervisor to make sure we weren’t missing anything. This, I am told by those in the know, is called project management: a useful term to describe a wide variety of work, and, I’m learning, a very useful skill.
At the back of this packet of materials is a PowerPoint presentation of Eviction Prevention Best Practices and Case Studies. This is a presentation that I’d been gradually working on for the past couple of months. Putting it together involved building off of the work of a past HHS intern by sifting through bibliographies to discover potentially relevant sources, and opening tab after tab in Google Chrome to find details about a city’s use of community nonprofits in providing housing counseling services. (In case that sentence makes the work sound monotonous, I’d like to clarify that this is something I find truly exciting and enjoyable.) As I worked on this presentation, Eviction Task Force staff members worked on putting together other presentations, and after a lot of work from a lot of people at a lot of planning meetings, we held the first Task Force meeting. At the meeting, I was able to put my research to use by presenting my summary of eviction prevention best practices to the assembled group of eviction stakeholders.
So, this first phase of the project is over. But I grab my packet of materials and my trusty “everything important is in here” notebook and head back up to the familiar 14th floor for our next task force planning meeting.
Charlotte Edelstein is the 2017-2018 Healthy Housing and Homelessness Prevention Coordinator VISTA for Health and Human Services with the City of Philadelphia.
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