According to the National Association of Social Workers, March is National Professional Social Work Month, serving as an opportunity “to turn the spotlight on the profession and highlight the important contributions they make to society.” Hear from social workers at Father Joe’s Villages about why their work makes the world a better place to live.
Guest Blogger: Julie DeDe, Masters of Social Work, Director of Community Relations
March is celebrated throughout the United States as Social Work Month. Social work is an academic discipline and profession that applies social sciences, such as sociology, psychology, political science, public health, community development, law, and economics, to engage with people and systems, assess situations, and develop interventions to solve social and personal problems, and create social change. Social workers are trained to look at situations in a holistic way, helping bring together people and communities to find ways to address issues. For generations, social workers have played a crucial role in improving the well-being of people and creating more robust and compassionate systems to support the healthy functioning of our society.
Once I heard a social worker reflect, “Social Work is a framework for someone I have always been.” This is absolutely true for me. When I found the social work school at Arizona State University during my first year of undergrad, I found a place that resonated so strongly with my values and outlook that I switched majors immediately and never once looked back.
To celebrate the contribution of the many social workers at Father Joe’s Villages we asked a few of our social workers to talk about what makes being a social worker in San Diego so special and what impact social workers have at Father Joe’s Villages.
Susan Reeder, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Director of Social Services
Social works are special because we can do so many diverse positions. We can see both the macro and micro perspectives. We can do therapy, crisis intervention, facilitate groups, assess clients, case manage, write grants, perform research, manage programs, and work in administration at agencies. I was fortunate enough to train at Jane Addams College of Social Work in Chicago and learned to work from a grass roots/community level that I have carried with me throughout my career.
Social workers are so important at Father Joe’s Villages because we help bring a clinical and diverse perspective.
Having social workers work with people who are homeless is something so needed with this population. We can provide research, clinical perspective, and ideas of how to change the community perspective. We also offer a clinical perspective that assists our clients each day.
Marc Stevenson, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Lead Mental Health Clinician
Social work is special because it is all inclusive. We look directly at the person and our strength lies not in knowing what is wrong with them but in learning what is right and strong with them. We don’t apply a person to a model or a particular approach but rather adapt everything we do or any model or technique we use to the unique person we are working with. By recognizing what is important to them we realize the vehicle upon which any possible change might be made.
We understand there is so much more to their problems than just them and have a keen understanding of how the world and the way it works also creates the problems that they experience.
By feeling their pain and acknowledging their strife our greatest gifts as social workers, to the people we serve, is seeing them and treating them as human beings that are deserving of our time, and just as interesting, fascinating or entertaining as any other person we would choose to spend our time with.
At Father Joe’s Villages we social workers have the unique and effective role of understanding our homeless neighbors as a culture versus people who lack, or people with problems. We know, without losing hope, that there are not enough resources to help all that we see here but through our CREED (our approach with Compassion for their particular situation in this world, Respect for their ability to survive with literally nothing and still smile, Empathy for what it feels like to live in a world that is passing you by, Empowerment enough to know when to do something for them, when to do it with them and when they should do it themselves, and knowing the greatest gift we can give them or anyone else is their Dignity) are able to create moments that are valuable enough for them to want more, keep trying, come back and never give up. They are here, with us, trying, waiting, hoping because we are able to keep them believing something better can happen. So as we stay here, working hard with all of them here with us, let that be a lesson to the world that we are ready and willing but need their help and resources to make the difference. This work is our advocacy and a picture is worth a thousand words. Look and hear us.
Nydia Nunez, Bachelors of Social Work (BSW), Permanent Supportive Housing Program Manager
Social work is special because it helps those who are at a disadvantage in society. Social Workers at Father Joe’s Villages work with homeless individuals to prepare them to return to work, to obtain stable income, to obtain housing and to maintain it.
[Social workers] guide clients on how to use resources that are available to them to address their weaknesses.
Most importantly, they work with each individual client helping them to use their strengths to live better lives.
Colleen Gruber, Masters of Social Work (MSW), Permanent Supportive Housing Case Manager
Social Work’s possibility for variation is probably one of the most unique aspects for those of us who like our kind of work. The abundance of social problems that Americans want to solve provides great opportunities for social workers. Social Work is done in a variety of settings, including hospitals, non-profit organizations, mental health centers, schools, advocacy agencies, community organizations, and government offices. Social Work is the applied science of helping people achieve an effective level of psychosocial functioning and effecting societal changes to enhance the well-being of all people. This statement reflects the two concerns of the social work profession, namely helping individuals function better and working for societal conditions that benefit everyone.
At Father Joe’s Villages we have the opportunity to coordinate services based upon individual needs, abilities, and goals of each client while promoting a healthy, safe, and supportive community.
At Father Joe’s Villages social workers work in an environment where we can see the effects of our work with clients. We work within well-established procedures and policies that allow for providing housing placements and delivering comprehensive supportive services with measurable outcomes to sustain housing and see improved quality of lives.
Paul DeLessio, Masters of Social Work (MSW), Director of Coordinated Services
Social work is special due to its focus on change. Many people, when they think about a social workers role in helping currently homeless people get to work and housing, they think of charity. The difference between social work and charity is that social work focuses on compassionate change while charity’s role is just compassion. Change is hard, therefore social work is hard. Think of something that you want to change in your life, your weight, smoking or watching too much YouTube; now think of the difficulties you have motivating through that.
Social workers are at the core of creating change in lives of people who have issues so robust, they have deprived them of self-sufficiency. Social workers accomplish this by positive reinforcement, employment of therapeutic interventions and coming alongside their clients. Social work is not a hand out, it is a hand up.
Social workers at Father Joe’s Villages hold up the core Social Work ethical principal of “Service.” Social workers here are on the front-line working with clients through homelessness, one of the most difficult and substantial issues our society faces today. It takes a special person to work at any non-profit. You not only have to do the hard work of a social worker but also do so in an environment of limited resources that you have to help raise yourself. The true pay at Father Joe’s Villages is not the money in your bank account, but the opportunity to work with clients that are most at need and see them overcome profound barriers.
Robert Hill, Masters of Social Work (MSW), Veterans Team Case Manager
Whereas many professions focus solely on biological, psychological, sociological, spiritual, and other areas, social work combines each of those areas in a highly interdisciplinary fashion to provide care at the individual, family, and community levels through direct contact and administration.
Unlike many human service organizations, Father Joe’s Villages has its roots in the Catholic Church and whether professed or not, faith influences all aspects of the work we do.
The cross, as depicted in our logo, is a good reminder that just as Christ humbled himself in sacrifice to reach the lost with hope for redemption, so do we humble ourselves in our work by meeting our neighbors where they are, oftentimes at their very worst, giving them hope for a new and better life. This life is not simply one with a roof over their heads, but rather includes a wholeness of mind, body, and spirit that we as Father Joe’s Villages social workers are uniquely commissioned to walk with them toward.
Julie DeDe, Masters of Social Work (MSW), Director of Community Relations
Social workers share many common traits and values. We have a stubborn drive and passion, a keen sense of justice, and well-developed intuition. We are tenacious, hard-working and empathic. We have a natural knack for putting people at ease, for tuning in to a person’s feelings, actively listening, and helping others feel heard. We understand the lift that is given merely by asking a few well-placed questions, or sometimes by simply giving a meaningful “Hello.”
All the staff at Father Joe’s Villages are incredibly committed to the important work we do each day.
Social workers, in particular, are important to the work we do because through their training, education and experience, they can hit the ground running in supporting clients, implementing our CREED and providing hope to the clients we serve.