It was a late February evening and I had procrastinated on my homework. Although I knew deep in my heart that my statistics problems would not disappear into thin air, I decided to check my email one more time. Waiting in the inbox was a little bit of sunshine or at least the promise of it. I could hardly believe it. LifeMoves was officially offering me an opportunity to intern for them over the summer. It meant ten weeks in California sunshine doing work that had nothing to do with boosting my GPA. Instead, I would be changing the world. If that sounds a little bit melodramatic, it is only because I never expected an internship at such an impactful company fresh off my first year of college. LifeMoves is a homeless shelter network that has championed unique solutions to the growing problem of homelessness in the San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. These two counties at the heart of Silicon Valley are financially booming as more companies choose to establish their bases in the area. However, not all have benefited from the changes. The supply of affordable housing has failed to meet the burgeoning demand. It is a situation that preys on the most vulnerable in society. In the two counties, the cost of living is almost 50% greater than the national average. Indeed, the demographic that LifeMoves serves most often is children. Families, especially those with single parents, are the ones that struggle most to make ends meet. The news of another gleaming gadget always outshines the problematic base that Silicon Valley was founded on.
However, my supervisors did not stop at the PowerPoints. On just the second day, they took all the interns on a tour of four of their locations, each serving a unique client base. Some provided transitional housing for families while another supplied drop-in services such as laundry and clothes distribution. The latter location especially prompted an interesting debate concerning the effectiveness of different solutions. For example, would drop in services help the homeless achieve a higher quality of life or rather enable them to continue as they are? These are questions that I look forward to pursuing throughout my internship. The diversity of solutions also intrigues me because it accepts that a multi-pronged approach is necessary to confront a problem as large as homelessness. However, I wonder if it could be replicated in cities across America. I am glad that I get to consider these problems from the comfort of an compliance intern position. For others, the consequences are more dire.