Erin Davison '19
Interdisciplinary Health Care Ethics
The City of Philadelphia's Office of Homeless Services
Briefly describe your role.
"The Mayor's Internship Program (MIP) is a ten-week unpaid internship with the City of Philadelphia. During their tenure, Mayor’s Interns are assigned substantive projects and tasks providing research, and analysis, as well as administrative, and staff assistance to City officials in various departments across the City of Philadelphia municipal government. Interns are also provided a host of additional opportunities to learn about careers in government from leaders and employees across the City. For the work component of the internship program, I was assigned to the Office of Homeless Service's Food Access Unit. Founded in 2012, the Food Access Unit aims to address widespread food insecurity and ensure all Philadelphians can access nutritious food and vital services in safe and dignified settings. For the work component, I was assigned to the Office of Homeless Service's Food Access Unit. In my role as an intern for the Food Access Unit, I participated in the City's efforts in Kensington to support individuals experiencing homelessness or food insecurity as a result of the opioid epidemic. Volunteers are responding to the epidemic, and travelling to Kensington to serve free meals outdoors. However, there is a dangerous lack of coordination in the efforts. This means that food service is irregular. Some days five or more meals may be served, other days there may be none. As a result, my outreach efforts largely focused on identifying outdoor meal providers and fostering partnerships between them and established service providers. This is in an effort to build effective, partnership-based solutions to address the challenge of reducing hunger in Philadelphia and to better serve the needs of vulnerable individuals who seek emergency congregate meals by strengthening connections to key social services."
Describe the day to day schedule in this role.
"Due to the participatory nature of my work, I do not have a consistent day-to-day schedule. My schedule largely revolves around what community meetings I have to attend, where I have to do outreach, or the location of our partners. Most of my work, however, takes place between 9 am-4 pm from Monday - Thursdays in Center City and Kensington. During this time, I aim to contribute to the Unit's longer term goals: 1) Have free meals served three times a day, seven days a week 2) Reduce food trash and waste by educating outdoor meal providers 3) Encourage informal meal providers to serve indoors at an existing partner (Prevention Point, St. Francis Inn, First Stop) 4) Reduce harm, increase dignity, and use food as direct line to services On Fridays, I join the City's other Mayor's Interns at either City Hall of the Municipal Services building for "exploring government" sessions. These sessions include panels of city officials, career counseling, and networking events. They have been enormously helpful in fostering my professional development."
How did you land your internship?
"I had heard of the Mayor's Internship Program before from friends in the Political Science department who had participated summers prior to me. It was not until I came across the listing on LinkedIn, however, that I decided to apply. Due to the competitive nature of the Program's hiring process, I took extra time to ensure that my resume, cover letter, and personal statement would stand out. I stopped by the Career Development Center for resume reviews and a faculty member from the Political Science department gave me notes on my personal statement. I've found that in the case of particularly competitive internship programs, the interview stage of the application process is what "seals the deal." As a result, I did a mock interview with the Career Development Center and had my roommates help me brainstorm possible questions the hiring manager would ask me. This was extremely helpful and I felt very prepared for my interviews."
What skills do you use on a daily basis in this role?
"I used many skills, but four key skills would be" 1) coordination of people and resources 2) writing and research 3) interpersonal skills 4) community organizing"
How did your SJU education prepare you for this opportunity?
"In Fall 2016, I took a political science and service learning class called "Politics of Homelessness" that was taught by Project Home employee and SJU Alumnus Scarlett McCahill. This is by far my favorite class I've taken while at SJU, and the class I feel best prepared me both academically and professionally to engage with issues of social, economic, and educational equity in Philadelphia. Professor McCahill provided my class with a strong historical background of the issue of homelessness and housing-insecurity in the United States, while also helping us develop soft and hard skills that are required in the social service and non profit arenas. My SJU education in general has also prepared me to engage with marginalized populations in way that promotes dignity and empowerment. This summer I've been able to see, in real time, the value of working in solidarity and being a a person "with and for others."
What is some advice you would give to students who are searching for internships and jobs?
"1) Start looking for internships between 6 and 8 months in advance. This sounds like an overshoot, but in my experience the call for applications has least six months prior to the start of the internship season and hiring occurs 2-3 months in advance. 2) Just apply! Even if a program sounds too competitive, you'll never know until you try and the worst thing a hiring manager could say to you is "sorry, not right now." 3) Stop by the Career Development Center before the application deadline and have them review your resume and cover letter. I've also benefited from the mock interviews the Career Development Center offers."