As May comes to a close, so does my first month as an intern. I’m realizing just how far out of my comfort zone I really stepped – after all, I’ve worked the same hostessing job for more than two years and babysat the same family for that amount of time. I hardly ever drive further than 15 miles alone. I haven’t jumped into a totally “new” job in years. But everything about interning at the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless (GCCH) is new. I have an office (I share it with the other interns, but still) and an entirely new set of co-workers who are nothing short of amazing.
In fact, my boss—the editor of Streetvibes who hired me as his intern—is Justin Jeffre, and he’s a member of the band 98 Degrees with Nick Lachey, Drew Lachey and Jeff Timmons.
This came as a shock to me because I’ve known of Justin since I first interviewed him back in high school. I’ve included his name in speeches and worked at the coalition with him for a month before I realized that he spent a good portion of his life traveling the world and performing with stars like New Kids on the Block, Britney Spears, and ‘N Sync. (Catch him Monday on VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live Hosted By Nick Lachey. He’s flying to Times Square to be there.)
Besides casually being an awesome undercover pop star, Justin has been great a great mentor. I come into the office twice a week, and so far, there hasn’t been a dull moment. My first day was spent entirely folding envelopes, but it wasn’t your typical intern go-get-the-CEO-some-coffee type grunt work. The entire office worked together, including Josh Spring, the executive director. Any extra hands were appreciated.
Since that first day, I’ve had the opportunity to cover a number of interesting things. Because GCCH is a social work agency with an extremely humble director, many of the work that GCCH does is often overlooked. Alternative paper CityBeat catches some of it, but the Cincinnati Enquirer almost always looks over it. GCCH hasn’t really been keeping track of all the good that they do for the community, and I think it’s important that donors to the coalition are aware of the beneficial changes GCCH makes to Over-the-Rhine.
I sat down with Josh and talked to him about one of his most recent accomplishments. Josh recently helped organize residents of the affordable Alms Apartment Complex into a Residents’ Association. The apartments had a number of dangerous and unsuitable issues that were going unfixed, so he and the association put together a list of about 27 demands for their property manager. Residents said that they were often bullied by their manager – this, along with numerous meetings and then combined with the manager’s questionable history was enough to get him fired. The association is now helping find a more suitable property manager. I wrote about this for Streetvibes, and wrote a reduced version to send with thank-you letters to donors.
Another thing I’m working on is a feature spotlight on one Streetvibes distributor at least every month. The first distributor I’ve written about, Melissa, was one of the sweetest, most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met.
She opened up to me in ways that about brought me to tears, and I hope that her story, which is running in the next issue, allows people to better understand that homelessness is not always preventable or simply the person’s “own fault.” Melissa has been through more struggles in her life than I could conceive, and she told me that looking back, she can’t even IMAGINE a path to a whole and healthy life. However, Melissa is always utilizing her skills in reading, writing and public speaking to make a living, and that’s what’s so admirable about her.
Finally, I covered a Black Lives Matter rally. This rally protested the killing of Rekia Boyd, an unarmed black woman who was fatally shot by a Chicago police detective. The rally and march that followed was centered around the idea that yes, the lives of black men matter – but so do the lives of black women, black children and black transgender women. About 50 people attended of all ages, races and genders, and it was an eye-opening experience to see the number of people that stand up for injustices like these.
I’m already forming friendships with my colleagues, volunteers, fellow interns and distributors, and I’m so excited for the rest of the summer. I hope I can cover as many important events as I can, as well as tell the stories of many Streetvibes distributors. I can’t describe how great of a feeling it is to be back into the swing of things, and it’s even better that my writing and reporting is hopefully raising consciousness on important social issues.