A reflection by Jasmine Brubaker, Washington Community Scholars’ Center intern
I was excited to finally begin my practicum in Washington D.C., the last step to acquiring a social work degree. I work for Capital Hill Group Ministry, a subsidized housing program for homeless families.
Real life in the city
My excitement to finally get out into the field blinded me to the true difficulties of working with homeless families in inner city D.C.
On my third day of work, I accompanied the caseworker to a client’s home. Over the next 90 minutes, the 29-year-old man I’ll call John related to me some of the most horrific experiences of his life. He’d fathered a child with his girlfriend of two years before realizing she had HIV and had carelessly infected him and their son with the virus.
Over the next seven years of their relationship, she’d prostituted herself and spread the virus further, igniting the anger of countless men who physically attacked John and his girlfriend. Now he was left with full blown AIDs and a son who had both AIDs and cerebral palsy, all while living in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in D.C.
Textbook learning comes to life
All throughout college, I read such horror stories in my textbooks and listened as professors warned of the importance of a professional barrier when dealing with problems that could otherwise consume us. That was the beginning of many difficult days struggling to know how to provide a listening hear, which many clients need more than anything, but still hold onto my sanity and ultimately my idealism.
Before D.C., “burnout” was only a word to me, but now I truly understand the importance of grabbing onto every triumph, no matter the size, in order to remain sane in a sometimes depressing profession.
If I was able to help move a family to an apartment where there was hot water, and the children were able to take a shower for the first time in two years, that was triumph enough to keep alive my hope of a better world for everyone.