Hi I’m Taylor Southall, and I am a summer AmeriCorps VISTA intern at Friendship Place. I will be here for ten weeks working on homeless veteran issues, mainly with the Homeless Veterans Initiative. I first gained an interest in this issue after participating in the Homeless Challenge through the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) in March of this year. I dressed down and paired up with a fellow student to experience firsthand the harsh conditions of life on the streets of DC. While begging for change and sleeping on sidewalks with no money, no phone, and no change of clothes for 48 hours, I gained a better appreciation for what I have, as well as a desire to help those who are less fortunate than me.
Three months later, I found myself here at Friendship Place, where I have the privilege of spending my summer trying to make a difference in the efforts to end homelessness among veterans. In my first week at Friendship Place I have gotten to know the staff, speakers, and consumers. It is such a wonderful place to intern so far, and everyone involved is always available to help and offer advice. Over the next nine weeks I will be working with another summer VISTA intern at NCH to ultimately create a “how-to” pocket guide for homeless veterans that will provide them with some insight on where to go for things like shelter, employment, help dealing with PTSD, and discharge upgrades. Some of my other goals are to plug local veteran organizations into where they can go to volunteer and get involved in Help the Homeless walks to benefit Friendship Place.
This week I have been to several events. I have attended meetings, including a Coalition of Housing and Homeless Organizations (COHHO) meeting at N Street Village and an end of life workshop here at Friendship Place. I have even watched as a news reporter interviewed Eric, a veteran resident downstairs in St. Luke’s shelter. It has been a busy week, and my primary focus has been to learn as much as I can about veteran homelessness so that I can accomplish my goals. I will blog weekly about my progress over the next nine weeks. I am so excited to be here at Friendship Place, and I cannot wait to see where this experience takes me!