Jesse Grainger spent eight months with the Legal Clinic for the Disabled acting as a Social Work intern from the University of Pennsylvania. He shared some of his experience and take-aways from his time with LCD.
What was your role at LCD and how long were you with them?
I was with LCD for about 8 months. I was an Master’s of Social Work intern from the University of Pennsylvania. I basically acted as a case manager. The attorneys passed cases along to me when clients had needs that were neither medical or legal. I would also assist attorneys with intakes and follow-ups to check on a client’s progress. I assisted clients in finding and securing housing, guiding them through the section 8/ HUD process (which is oftentimes confusing), securing rental-assistance monies from various agencies to either help with rental arrears or to cover security deposits on new units. I’ve assisted several clients who were living in poor/unhealthy environments find apartments and secure money to get them into units that are not compromising their health. LCD really allowed me to create my own experience, and as a social worker I believe the most effective way to create change for individuals is through building and bridging relationships with the clients and the systems they live within.
When helping clients search for apartments I would personally pick up each application and introduce myself to the property manager or landlord to create a working relationship and place the client on their radar. I’ve found this makes for a smoother transition when trying to get clients in a unit.
On Tuesdays I did intakes at Landlord/Tenant Court for the Eviction Prevention Program, which LCD is a part of and which is funded by the city. LCD and other organizations provided lawyers in the courtroom to help tenants who don’t already have representation.
What did a typical day at LCD look like for you?
There’s no typical day as either an attorney or social worker at LCD. You never know who is going to call for assistance or what kind of case is going to come across your desk at any minute. I guess on a typical day I would be checking in on clients and to see how they were doing and if they needed anything from me—this was done typically on the phone. But I always attempted to do a few home visits in order to build rapport and a strong working relationship with clients. I incorporate many tenets of relational theory into my work and believe that the most important factor in effecting change in a client’s life is the relationship built between the client and worker. Much of my time was spent building relationships with clients by talking with them about their progress on whatever problem we were working on and assessing for any further needs. I also spent a great deal of time searching for apartments and going out and building relationships with landlords and property managers.
How did you find out about LCD and why did you want to work with them?
LCD was suggested to me by the field office at Penn when I was searching for my field placement. Each Masters student has to do an internship in conjunction with classes for the duration of the program. I chose LCD because I have an interest in how Law and Public Policy affect the most vulnerable and marginalized populations. Once I went home and researched the organization I knew it was a fit for me as LCD truly works with some of the most vulnerable people in Philadelphia. I’ve seen people come through the doors at LCD hopeless and broken because they were facing homelessness and we were able to keep them in a home and off the street; or ensure they wouldn’t have to suffer from intimate partner abuse by helping establish a protection from abuse order; or things as simple as providing peace of mind by providing folks with powers of attorney and wills.
What would you like people to know about LCD that they might not?
LCD’s attorneys are truly passionate about what they do and in serving the public. I also think that our housing piece is underrated as they do so much for folks facing homelessness or living in precarious situations. Evan Barker and Ben Feldman are doing an amazing job with the Housing Program that Evan is heading.