Today is our summer intern, Eliza Smith’s, last day with Georgetown Ministry Center. Eliza has served an important role within GMC over the past 5 weeks, serving our guests in the Center, participating in street outreach, providing support to our development team, and spearheading the reorganization of our Clothing Closet. We are grateful to Eliza for her time and many contributions, and her sunny demeanor will be missed by guests and staff, alike!
Eliza Smith, GMC Summer Intern
Before she leaves us, we asked Eliza to write a short piece about her experience at GMC that we’d like to share:
My name is Eliza Smith and I am currently a rising second year student at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA. I arrived at GMC in May to complete a five week Supervised Ministry internship as a part of my masters program. Eager to enter a new context, I learned about GMC from my family friend, Alex Bullock, and was then connected to Gunther and the team. I have had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of GMC over the past month, spending a substantial amount of time in the day center, participating in street outreach and learning about development and fundraising.
Throughout my time at GMC, I have learned that adequate assistance is only possible with a deep understanding of context. Though I have completed two prior internships within the realm of transitional housing, GMC has reminded me that using the term “homeless” as a blanket descriptor can often be misleading. While my previous internship experience has often involved working with recently evicted homeless families, GMC has been my first exposure to the long-term street dwelling population. As I have learned the stories of many of our guests, I have been amazed by the length of time some have been surviving on the street. It has not been uncommon to encounter someone who has been homeless longer than I have been alive.
The past month has been an excellent lesson in redefining what is, ultimately, “successful”. Though many have received housing in large part due to the assistance of GMC, there is an understanding that effort cannot and should not end there. There is also a recognition that some who qualify may refuse housing for a variety of reasons. In many ways, to discuss homelessness in our context is to also discuss mental health and healthcare. Many suffering from mental illness also have anosognosia, a lack of awareness about their condition. This often makes treatment and maintenance of care complicated. The goal of GMC is not a seamless, unrealistic or stream-lined approach toward housing, but rather community and comprehensive support for those who are on the street. This requires an acknowledgement that different people need different things, making the work largely relational. While some need case management, others simply want a shower. On the same day that some have come to meet with a psychiatrist, others have stopped by for 30 minutes of internet access.
As a seminary student on the ordination track for the Presbyterian Church, I am particularly interested in how this understanding can better inform congregational perception of mission and outreach. Instead of “blind participation” in philanthropic endeavors, I believe that church communities have a responsibility to be deeply engaged in the world in which we live and serve. Part of this involves being well informed, taking into account why and how we should deliberately participate in responsible advocacy and service.