The Hospitality House’s mission is to strengthen the community by providing a safe environment for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Services provided include emergency, transitional, family, and permanent housing, laundry and shower facilities open to the public, a kitchen providing meals to the community, and a food pantry for those experiencing financial instability. Much of my experience on-site was filled with meaningful interactions with residents and clients of the Hospitality House. Providing meals for people who were experiencing hardships on a level that I’ve never had to experience was one of the most rewarding aspects of my internship. Being in the south, food translates to “love” and it was incredibly meaningful to be able to pass a plate of compassion across the serving line to those who needed it most. All of the stressful hours leading up to service really melted away with the first “thank you” from a guest. Working at the front desk was an entirely different experience and one that I feel really helped me with my expectations for what my future career may look like. Most of the work at the front desk involves supervision and time-management, making sure that those who need to meet with staff members are able to make that connection mingles with ensuring residents have everything they need to succeed as well as making sure they feel valued within the environment. I will never forget the interactions I’ve had with the house residents while at the front desk.
The advantages of completing my internship at the Hospitality House far outweigh any disadvantages. I would argue that the most significant advantage is the understanding that comes from working with a vulnerable population like those served by this organization. I developed an appreciation for what I have as well as an understanding of those experiencing instability as people no different than myself simply afflicted by some unfair turn of fate. This has really helped me in applying this understanding to those around me in an effort to be less exclusive and more welcoming in my personal life. The only disadvantage I would say I experienced while on-site was the stress-levels. There is a lot going on at all times on-site and sometimes this means there’s no time to take a breath, which can become stressful. The staff is always there to lend an ear, though, and always made me feel valued and safe to feel what I was feeling. I am so thankful for that.
Working at the house has made it clear for me that my future is in social work and specifically providing aid to vulnerable communities. This experience has really opened my eyes to the passion I feel for helping others and being a part of a meaningful aspect of the community. It has also left me with the knowledge that people are good. It’s really easy to get bogged down in the negativity swirling around us every day, but I remember the smile I got every morning from one special resident and I remember to keep smiling myself.