Levi Hughes ’24

Louison House, North Adams, MA

Over the course of this summer, I worked at the Louison House, a nonprofit social service organization that helps people who are homeless or experiencing housing insecurity. Their small organization, consisting of five social workers and an accountant, is the main organization to assist residents of North Adams. Often this includes triaging with the Elizabeth Freeman Center, which assists victims of domestic violence in the area, as well as referring people and working with ServiceNet’s St. Joe’s Emergency Housing Shelter in Pittsfield.

Admittedly, my internship started off a little rocky. I had come at a time when the organization was understaffed, there was (and still is) an ongoing homelessness crisis, and deadlines to apply for government funding and grants were quickly approaching. The learning curve was tough, and before I knew it, I was tasked to do things I had little training in. But things got a lot easier and I learned a lot over the first few weeks.

One of my first projects was the creation of a database that had information on every person who had called in asking for help from the years 2019 to present. This was a very time-consuming task, and the database was not only supposed to have their name and other personal information but also status updates that included their current whereabouts, where they were referred, what their homeless situation was and how we had helped them if we had taken them in as clients. This project took me two weeks to complete, and I processed thousands of people’s information. My next project was the creation of a community resource guide that listed all known local organizations and other agencies that helped in areas such as food insecurity, education, employment assistance and other relevant resources.

However, most of my work at the Louison House did not consist of projects. Rather, I did a lot of help with client intakes, waitlist management, assisting clients with housing applications and referring calls from out of our area of operation to their local organizations or shelters. Perhaps the most challenging part of this day-to-day work was the fact that not everyone could be saved, and sometimes people had to be turned away when the shelters were full.

Overall, I enjoyed working with the Louison House and, although it was stressful work, it was a really meaningful experience. As a political science major interested in community organizing and one who is doing research on the role of empathy in politics and how different policies affect people, this experience was truly eye-opening. I got to learn a lot about state policies, barriers to housing and the many nuances that exist in social services when it comes to who is helped and how. Furthermore, the work reaffirmed the importance of shaping local policies around community needs and the greater need for empathy in politics.

I am grateful that I was able to serve as an intern at a local organization, especially one in need of an extra set of hands. Thank you so much.