In late April, I accepted a development & communications summer internship at the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. While I found the prospect of working in Washington D.C. very exciting, I was not sure what to expect. I was looking for experience with an advocacy or non-profit organization, so the Law Center seemed like a great fit for me. I had devoted the past year of college extra-curriculars to a club that focused on global inequalities. We had hosted a modest forum on homelessness in Alachua County, Florida, where I am a resident.
I anticipated that my internship would expose me to non-profit business practices and office skills. I am happy to say that my knowledge in these areas were most certainly improved. However, I gained so much more than simple filing skills. I gained perspective. I gained the ability to look at a problem, a truly complex problem like homelessness, and think critically about solutions. Homelessness has never affected me personally. I have led an extremely blessed life, and while I have stresses, worrying about the roof over my head has never been one of them. Unfortunately, I believe this has made me blind to issues of homelessness.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that Gainesville is one of the nation’s meanest cities towards the homeless. I didn’t know that homelessness was a real problem in Alachua County. Now, when I read about an anti-lodging ordinance in Charlotte County or a law restricting food sharing, these laws mean something to me. I have placed a face on homelessness, and now understand that people experiencing it are not a population to be shuffled away; they are people who deserve a better quality of life. Armed with the knowledge I have gained this summer, I can return to my home and speak for the voiceless homeless in my area.
Even more than these new perspectives, I have been privileged to spend an entire summer with the employees of the Law Center. This is a remarkable group of people. They have taken it upon themselves to face the colossal (yet manageable) problem of homelessness, and stick with it until the end. They fight tirelessly for what they know is right, and the word “inspiring” fails to describe it. While the Law Center is a modest office, the workers inside remain undaunted. Never once did someone utter “what is the point?” or “this problem is just too huge.” The Law Center works unselfishly for people who deserve it, never afraid of the outcome and never settling for mediocre. I am proud to call myself a part of the Law Center family, and I will continue throughout my life to carry on its mission.
I also, thanks to a Law Center friend, received a great Bruce Springsteen mix for the ride home.
-Brittany Libbey, Development & Communications Intern
P.S. – the Law Center would like to extend a HUGE thank you to summer interns Lisa Coleman, An Duong, Brittany Libbey, Joanna Parnes, Kieran Paul, Robert Sanderman, and Susan Zhu. With your help, we accomplished much.