I am currently serving as an AmeriCorps member at the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania. Our year of service is quickly coming to a close and we are already in our last rotations. I will be finishing out my year with the communications department, but I would like to use this blog post to reflect on my rotation at Red Cross House. Going in I knew very little about what my days would look like. I knew the statistics, but what I didn’t know was all the work that goes on over there. The caseworkers spend many hours helping residents who are staying at Red Cross House following a disaster find assistance and residents spend many hours searching for a new place to live.
Anyone who has looked for an apartment or house knows how stressful the process is, but imagine adding that to the stress of just having lost your home and belongings. When families first enter Red Cross House it is not uncommon for them to be overwhelmed. They have a daunting journey ahead of them. Soon, typically the day after they enter, they will sit down with their caseworker. The trained caseworkers go over what the family lost, what their recovery plans are, and what the next steps should be. After this first meeting you often can see that the family is visibly more relaxed, because they now at least have an idea of what to do to get back into a home. The road ahead is still difficult, but they have a sense of control again.
Residents also take classes while staying at Red Cross House. Some classes offer practical knowledge, such as fire safety and financial literacy, while other activities are ways for the residents to have fun and decompress, such as yoga class or getting a free haircut. None of these classes would happen without our volunteers and financial supporters. In fact, Red Cross House would not run smoothly without the many volunteers who help at the front desk, serve lunch, teach classes, and offer counseling services, or the financial support to help keep the place looking nice.
One of the things about Red Cross House that stands out to me the most is how quickly residents form bonds with each other. After all, no one understands what you’re going through better than the people staying down the hall. It was not uncommon to see people sit down at lunch together and start talking about what had brought them to the house. Soon you would see them checking in on each other, and sometimes even helping each other look for a new place to live. I believe that the sense of community is one of the first things that helps people on their road to recovery, because they are reminded that they are not alone, and they see others who were in the same place as them moving back into a home.
Working at Red Cross House showed me how resilient the people of Philadelphia are. All of the residents staying there were going through a very challenging period, but they all continued to move forward and do what needed to be done to get them back into a forever home. In the meantime, Red Cross House stands ready to act as home whenever needed.
– Submitted by Megan Wood, AmeriCorps NPRC Member