As the summer comes to a close, I would like to share a few words about my fantastic experience as an intern at the National Housing Conference.
I had no idea what to expect coming into this internship. I knew little about nonprofit work and even less about housing. I still remember feeling my face turn red when I was asked about my knowledge or experience with affordable housing during my interview with Amy and Kaitlyn, and the best I could do was recount witnessing a surge in the homeless population of my city during the 2008 financial crisis, and describe how it impacted the community’s social fabric. Nonetheless, through the work I have done this summer (attending policy briefings, writing weekly articles for Restoring Neighborhoods, and listening to lawmakers debate housing initiatives on C-SPAN), I can credibly say that I have learned a great deal more about housing issues, and about how essential access to a safe and affordable home is in leading a normal and dignified life.
I have never had to worry about facing an eviction notice, or about having to scrape enough money together in order to meet a mortgage payment. I have never felt asphyxiated by the weight of life as a cost-burdened renter, nor have I ever painfully watched my once-vibrant neighborhood decay into vacancy and blight. In a country where one-third of households are cost-burdened, two million evictions are filed every year and the average age of a homeless individual is nine years old, I have been extraordinarily privileged in my housing situation and family income. These statistics are but a mere snapshot into the world of housing to which I have been introduced this summer, and serve as a sobering reminder that millions of Americans’ daily suffering passes largely under the radar of mainstream political and media discourse. My appreciation for NHC, its member organizations and federal agencies such as HUD has only grown throughout the course of the summer, as I have further come to understand the scope of their reach in alleviating the plight of millions of poor and low-income Americans who have great difficulty accessing affordable housing and other consequential amenities.
While I was assigned many tasks this summer, the two most consistent ones were drafting articles for the Restoring Neighborhoods weekly newsletter and retrieving information from our databases to input into spreadsheets. Writing for Restoring Neighborhoods trained me to identify the most essential ideas and facts in an article and then condense it into a brief, yet thorough overview. This activity honed my analytical skills while sharpening my writing abilities. Meanwhile, working with spreadsheets and our databases conditioned me into being a meticulous worker who pays close attention to detail. On more than one occasion, I would catch myself with an error that I had been carrying through, and then to my great anguish, would have to re-input several dozen lines of data. Both activities, though tedious at times, taught me very important skills that I will take with me into my final years of university and then on into the workplace.
I would like to thank each and every staff member of the NHC – Kaitlyn, Andrea, Amy, Amanda and David – for providing me with this fascinating opportunity to be a part of their team for the summer, and for being wonderful supervisors and role models. They made the NHC a very welcoming place and somewhere I enjoyed working and showing up every day. This is sure to be an experience that I will never forget.