I interned with the East Bay Community Law Center’s Housing Unit during the first year of my Masters in Social Welfare program. As a Social Work Housing Intern at EBCLC, I had the opportunity to serve and advocate for individuals and families who were in danger of being evicted and at risk of becoming unhoused. I took a client-centered approach to providing trauma-informed, wrap-around case management services to clients and connected them to resources that supported them in having their basic needs met. Through this experience, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of housing policy and learn how to be a stronger advocate for my clients. For instance, I had a client who was undocumented and one of her children had a disability. Through collaborative work between her lawyer, the son’s therapist and I, we were able to get them a reasonable accommodation and buy them more time to be able to find housing. I admire that EBCLC takes a holistic approach to providing services to clients; interdisciplinary collaboration is really a game changer.
Throughout the course of my field placement, I was reminded of the importance of meeting clients where they’re at and the importance of taking an intersectional, culturally humble stance in the work that we do. Most of my clients had one or more disabilities and many have been unhoused more than once. It was infuriating to see how ableism and systemic racism perpetuate homelessness here in the Bay Area
Due to the pandemic, most of my internship experience occurred behind a screen or over the phone. I enjoyed the few times I was able to come in to work in-person at Adeline with my clinical supervisor, Ellie, the rest of the amazing social work team and some of the incredible attorneys in the housing unit. Ellie is a remarkable advocate for her clients and I am grateful for her guidance and support throughout my time at EBCLC. Despite most of our interactions occurring over the phone, I really value the opportunities I had to meet with and advocate for my clients in person. I found it refreshing to work at a place that values collaboration, social justice and puts the well-being of clients at center stage.
Not only did I learn a lot from the staff at EBCLC, but I learned a lot from the clients I worked with through the stories and wisdom they shared with me. The relationships I built with the clients I served were the highlight of the work. My experience at EBCLC has been an integral part of my social work experience and I’ll carry everything I learned here into my social work practice. No matter what level of social work I end up working in–macro, mezzo or micro–the knowledge and skills I developed during this experience will continue to inform my practice for years to come.
Written by Jackie Zavala
University of California, Berkeley, Class of 2023
East Bay Community Law Center Social Work Clinical Student