Annie Clark helps youth who are runaway, homeless or in crisis
She is a student in majoring in Social Justice and Welfare
“Since working at the shelter, I have come to realize the immensity of youth homelessness, and the dire need for additional resources and support in Milwaukee in order to adequately serve this vulnerable, and often invisible, population.” Annie Clark, Volunteer/Intern at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center
What made you become a volunteer?
I initially came across Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center after searching through different options for an internship that I needed to complete for my Social Justice and Welfare major at Marquette University. I was immediately drawn to the organization because of its emphasis on youth development programs. Having never worked with a teen population before, I was looking to expand my horizons and implement my knowledge of social justice issues that our city faces in a new environment.
Although I have often noticed a stigma surrounding the difficulty of working with youth and teen populations due to stereotypical reputations of teens being a more “difficult” client base, I wanted to learn more about the unique and holistic services that Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center provides. In my time there, I have seen their mission come to life as their approach to youth development is setting the foundation for which our city can improve upon and become a more just place.
Describe Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center and the work they do.
Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center provides emergency shelter for youth ages 11-17
who are runaway, homeless, or currently in crisis and need time away from home, as well as transitional and supportive housing for young adults, ages 18-25. At their youth shelter, where I am a volunteer intern, Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center provides youth with a stay of up to two weeks at their shelter and has therapists for the youth and their families to support them during their stay. The shelter also runs a 24-hour crisis hotline that provides much needed information to youth and families in crisis, as well as referrals to other agencies in the community. Additionally, the shelter runs daily group sessions for the in-shelter youth, creating a supportive space for more vulnerable conversations.
What do you do as a volunteer?
My main responsibly as a volunteer intern at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center is to assist staff with providing the youth at the shelter with a safe and inclusive environment. Volunteers and staff strive to create a space that promotes supportive relationships between the youth shelter residents, working to provide youth with a sense of “normalcy” during an otherwise stressful period. Due to the prior or current situations that bring youth to Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center, most of the youth are dealing with a great deal of stress. By creating a routine sense of “home” within the shelter, youth are able to relax and bond with each other and the volunteers and staff, and this helps to build relationships that will help to support them during their stay. As a volunteer, I do this by hanging out with the youth and engaging them in whatever way they feel most comfortable (games, movies, cooking, talking, etc.), as well as by facilitating group sessions or activities with them, which helps in getting to know them beyond the situations that brought them to the shelter.
Besides supporting the youth during their stay, my other responsibilities involve answering crisis phone calls, assisting with intakes or discharges of youth to or from the shelter, doing laundry, helping with administrative paper work, and keeping the shelter in a clean and orderly fashion.
How long have you been a volunteer?
I have been a volunteer at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center since May 2018, and -as of August- I moved into an intern position at the shelter at part of my Social Justice and Welfare major at Marquette University.
What surprised you most about volunteering?
The most surprising facet of my volunteering experience has been the meaningful relationships that have formed between the youth shelter residents, and between the residents and the volunteers and staff. I am continually amazed by the resilience of the youth we see at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center and how open and able they are to share their stories and make connections in the community that is created here, despite the short amount of time they stay.
What new things have you learned through this volunteer opportunity?
Volunteering at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center has taught me a great deal about the issues surrounding youth homelessness, and how prevalent it is in the Milwaukee community. From working at the shelter, I have learned the importance of providing trauma-informed care to young people. Youth shelter staff have shown me how positively impactful a healthy and supportive relationship can be to youth in unstable environments. Through all my work at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center, I have come to realize how pivotal the teens years can be in one’s life
Has it changed your view of the world in any way? Has it changed your view of the community?
My view of Milwaukee has changed since I started working at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center. Prior to volunteering here, I was not aware the magnitude of youth homelessness, especially here in Milwaukee. Homeless youth are a vulnerable population that often seem invisible to community members, as they become good at hiding their homelessness to protect themselves (sleeping at friend’s houses and other locations that are less “out in the open”). In the field, it is known that around 4,500 youth in Milwaukee lacked a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence during the 2016-2017 school year. Despite this large number, Milwaukee does not have many youth-only homeless shelters. Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center is an important resource for many youth, but unfortunately is only able to serve a tiny fraction of the youth that find themselves homeless each night.
Has volunteering helped you? Has it had benefits for you?
Working at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center has given me a small glimpse into the running of a non-profit organization. As a Social Welfare and Justice major, working at a non-profit is a possibility for my future. Gaining exposure to this type of work, and seeing how difficult yet simultaneously rewarding non-profit work can be, has helped me discern the type of postgraduate work in which I may want to involve myself.
What are you most proud of?
Since starting at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center, I am most proud of the relationships that I have formed with the residents and staff at the shelter. The agency staff have been nothing but supportive and attentive during my volunteering, and have continued to express interest and commitment to making my experience at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center an opportunity to grow and learn.
Since starting at the shelter, I have grown considerably in my ability to quickly form relationships with the youth and staff whom I work with each shift. Because creating relationships is a cornerstone of support that youth will receive while at the shelter, it is imperative to cultivate these connections quickly, as teens usually cannot stay for more than two weeks. Although I used to struggle at connecting with the residents in such a short period of time, I now find this being one of the easier aspects of my work at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center, and something I look forward to during each new shift.
According to Ben Hastil, Director of Volunteer & AmeriCorps Programs at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center, “Annie has made a significant contribution to Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center and the youth and families we serve through her positive and calm presence with clients, her skill at engaging and supporting the youth at our shelter, her thoughtful facilitation of youth group sessions, and the overall dedication and enthusiasm she has consistently showed throughout her time as a volunteer with us by taking on needed projects, suggesting and following through on good ideas, and applying herself eagerly to the numerous areas of her work in our Teen Crisis & Runaway Program.”
Would you recommend volunteering to others? If so, what can you tell them is the benefit they’d get from volunteering?
For me, volunteering has allowed for a deeper understanding of the community that I live and learn in, as well as shown me possible career paths within social services. As a student without much knowledge of organizations that directly relate to my field of study, volunteering has allowed me to see the various services that non-profits can provide.
How would you suggest someone begin if they want to begin volunteering at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center or elsewhere?
If you are interested in getting involved with Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center, the best place to start is with their website. The site is a great resource that provides additional information on the range of services and volunteer opportunities that Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center offers. Their website www.walkerspoint.org will allow you to gain a better insight into which branch of the organization you want to volunteer in, and can then point you towards the appropriate staff member to contact.
Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center is in need of motivated, caring, and team-oriented volunteers and interns to serve as Youth & Family Specialist Assistants at our emergency youth shelter. Youth & Family Specialist Assistants play a crucial role in the day-to-day operation of our youth shelter by facilitating supportive programming for residents, assisting with crisis calls and intake assessments, and helping staff with overall shelter management. To learn more, go to www.walkerspoint.org/volunteer-internships or contact Ben (volunteer director) at firstname.lastname@example.org or 414-647-8200 x2 for more information about volunteering or interning at Walker’s Point Youth & Family Center.
The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee is a membership association serving over 500 nonprofit and corporate members and the nonprofit sector at large. The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee is a catalyst promoting the interests and enhancing the effectiveness of the nonprofit sector in southeast Wisconsin. Its programs include training and consulting, Volunteer Milwaukee, financial management, and Jobs that Serve. For more information visit npcmilwaukee.org. To find a volunteer opportunity visit VolunteerMilwaukee.org.
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