Transition Projects is an epicenter for the homeless population of Oregon. The organization is a non-profit in Downtown Portland that works to provide individuals with services and resources to help end their homelessness. Such resources include a day center with restrooms, showers, clothing, lockers, and mail. It also has an acute care clinic with dental vouchers and TB screening, as well as a hygiene center. Their Short Term Residential Program offers individuals a place to stay, while matching them with an affordable, long-term housing option. Lastly, the Mentor Program that they offer connects formerly homeless survivors to currently homeless victims in order to help them overcome the challenges of jumping from homelessness to permanent housing. Throughout the process, Transition Projects supports those that come to them, attempting to connect them to the community through housing, jobs, and supportive relationships. I first encountered Transition Projects during my freshman year of high school. Each year, the St. Mary’s Academy freshman class is introduced to Downtown Portland through a tour of the urban environment in relationship to the homeless population. We tour different organizations and meet various people who give or use the services along the way. During my senior year of high school, I led one of these tours and Transition Projects was one of the organization stops. I was immediately captured by their focus on integrating the homeless into the social fabric of Portland and the variety of services and resources they provide. It is incredible that they assist more than 10,000 people experiencing homelessness each year and that on any given day, they help more than 700 people with basic needs, including shelter, food, and clothing. Moreover, their focus on long-term, sustainable development parallels with the characteristics of effective change that I learned in my Introduction to International Development class. I knew five years ago that this was an organization that I would love to work for one day.
Picture: Portland, Oregon: Innovative Homeless Service Model at Bud Clark Commons
Transition Projects is a gateway to many other opportunities. Portland has a network of nonprofits working on homelessness and I have already talked with my supervisor about getting in contact with these other organizations. Moreover, this opportunity gives me true insight into the availability and reality of development jobs, specifically in my hometown. While I am deeply invested in the topic, I don’t have an extensive understanding of what possibilities a development major can bring. Most importantly, this internship is an easy way to help my community. I have always been passionate about helping the homeless population—volunteering at food shelters, collecting socks and clothing for various drives, working on educating my high school community and the community beyond about homelessness-related issues. This organization does amazing work for an extremely vulnerable population.
My internship includes a range of responsibilities. Firstly, there are administrative tasks. These include photocopying volunteer forms and organizing them in an online database, filing various donation forms by date, and sending past donors thank-you letters. I also set up opportunities for volunteer groups. Volunteers come in for a variety of jobs, such as blanket making. My responsibilities may include setting up the room for the blanket-making group of volunteers. Since I am only on my second week, the majority of my hours have been dedicated to administrative tasks. As the weeks go on, I will be given more opportunities to help with specific projects and work directly with administrators.
During my first week, I was extremely impressed by the organization. In the past, the non-profits that I have worked for have seemed hectic and unorganized. Transition Projects was neither. All of the employees were welcoming and offered a variety of jobs to be a part of. My internship is very flexible in the sense that my supervisors want to make sure I am working on projects that I am passionate about. I was also able to take a tour of the facilities, including the day center and one of the shelters that Transition Projects supervises. Seeing the residents and the interactions with the faculty proved Transition Projects to be an incredible opportunity for undergraduates to work with people who truly want to make a difference in their communities.
In these past two weeks, I have thought of three tips for students interested in finding, securing, and keeping up with an internship:
1. Start searching early—I started applying for summer internships in December. Not only did this give me a wider variety of opportunities, but it gave employers the impression that I am a self-motivated and eager candidate who is enthusiastic about the opportunity. It also helped buffer the generally long response time of some organizations.
2. Have a strong resumé off the bat—I signed up for the alumnae mentor program through Newcomb. My mentor went over my resume and LinkedIn with me to help strengthen my application in an inevitably large and competitive pool of applicants. This assistance from a professional in the field was invaluable.
3. Do not get discouraged by seemingly menial tasks—In my case, a lot of the work within the nonprofit includes managing online databases, organizing donations, and creating volunteer applications. In order to move onto larger projects, these tasks need to be finished in advance. By showing persistence and dedication to seemingly negligible tasks, my supervisor is moving me onto larger projects. If you work efficiently on the administrative tasks, your supervisor will notice and you will be able to move forward.
I am excited for what the rest of the summer will bring. In my next blogpost, I will detail the projects I will be working on and the various people that I will meet. Hopefully, I will also be visiting the other shelters to report back on the differences between them. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Newcomb has provided me and am very happy to be working for an amazing organization that gives back to my community.