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Meet the new StreetWise Director of Social Work and her interns

Wed, Oct 24, 2012

Sarah Brown is our new Director of Social Services at StreetWise. Social Services are open to anyone in the community in need of referrals, advocacy and any other support necessary to regain stability and self-sufficiency. People may participate in social services regardless of their involvement in other parts of the organization, such as selling the magazine. Social Services allow people to identify and express their own needs in a safe, nonjudgmental and confidential environment.

Sarah holds a master of social work degree from Jane Addams School of Social Work at University of Illinois Chicago. Prior to obtaining this degree, Sarah spent seven years as a case manager in social services at Howard Area Community Center (HACC) in Rogers Park. After graduating from UIC, Sarah worked for a year at North Side Housing and Supportive Services doing housing locator services. Sarah cites both of these positions as being crucial in her professional development, knowledge of community resources, and ability to ultimately advocate for and link people to the support they want and need.

It was during the time at HACC that Sarah’s passion for social justice and poverty eradication began to develop. Day in and day out, she witnessed the struggle of those experiencing homelessness, lack of living wage jobs, single parenthood, release from incarceration, community violence, and inadequate access to healthcare, substance abuse, mental health services. At the same time, the lack of viable resources to address these issues was evident. She made the decision to advance her education in hopes of enhancing her knowledge around these issues and ability to aid in them.

At Jane Addams, Sarah chose to focus on Community, Health and Urban Development and did a year long internship at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. This experience, paired with the education she received from Jane Addams, allowed her to draw the connection of homelessness as a symptom of poverty, rather than result of substance abuse or mental illness. It also enhanced her view of homelessness as persisting due to the lack of accessible services and remedies that would truly break the cycle.

Sarah was thrilled for the opportunity to work at StreetWise because the mission is very much in line with her own personal values. The access to immediate income that StreetWise vendors have can provide the resources necessary for them to get back on their feet. Her prior professional experience, education and connections within the community, make Sarah competent at getting individuals linked to the resources they need on the road for where they want to be.

In the future, Sarah hopes to expand social services to make an even larger impact within the community. This expansion would fill in some of the voids in the community, such as computer classes. It would also offer services that are available – but are insufficient – such as housing locator services. There are currently three interns working within the department, from Sarah’s alma mater, Jane Addams, to assist in accomplishing the mission of both the department and the magazine. Services are designed to meet people where they are, in adherence to the principles of Harm Reduction. This means that people work to reduce negative consequences of certain behaviors, rather than requiring abstinence for services.

Social Services are by walk-in, not appointment, most Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Vendors are still urged to call in advance, just to make sure that there will be someone there to assist or that the waiting list is still open. Services include, though are not limited to, housing locator services, assistance in obtaining state ID’s, advocacy around public benefits, crisis and domestic violence support services, linkage to shelters, substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, legal assistance, community food pantries, and transportation. Sarah can be reached at 773-334-6600 extension 12.

ZOE KOLON grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She attended the University of New Mexico for her undergraduate studies, graduating with degrees in political science and Spanish. Zoe has always had a passion for languages, which led her to spend a year in France during high school and a semester in college studying globalization impacts and migration in Nicaragua.

Graduating in 2011, with aspirations of living in a more dynamic and urban setting, she took a leap of faith and moved to Chicago. Over the last year, she has worked as a case manager for a local non-profit agency, providing an array of services to unaccompanied immigrant youth. She realized that in order to achieve her professional goals, pursuing a Master of Social Work would be most beneficial to her. She is currently in her first year at the Jane Addams School of Social Work at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Zoe chose to complete her internship requirement at StreetWise as it represented an opportunity to work with a population that she had little experience with previously, and it provided her with a chance to truly help some of Chicago’s citizens in need. She also strongly believes in StreetWise’s mission to provide services to individuals with the goal of empowerment by way of self-sufficiency. Finally, in her time at StreetWise, Zoe hopes to gain insight into the management side of non-profit organizations and their interaction with government agencies.

Through her studies, Zoe hopes to achieve a broader awareness of both the macro and micro levels of social work, and to improve her abilities to provide comprehensive and respectful services to individuals and communities. As a person who has always found an interest in improving human wellbeing, Zoe hopes to enter the field of social work equipped with the necessary skills to provide effective services and the ability to advance solutions that will foster positive change and lead to a more just global society.

MARGARET SMITH was born and raised in Chicago and is excited to be interning at StreetWise with the social services department. She is a first year student at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Margaret graduated from Grinnell College in 2009, where she developed a healthy appreciation for rural Iowa. While there, she majored in English and was on the swimming and water polo teams. She also co-facilitated a reading group at the Mitchellville Women’s Prison.

After graduating, Margaret spent a year San Francisco with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. She lived in intentional community with four other volunteers while working at the Homeless Advocacy Project, a legal clinic serving primarily homeless individuals and advocating on their behalf in landlord/tenant disputes and SSI/SSDI applications, as well as other matters.

After almost a year living in San Francisco, Margaret started to miss Chicago, so she came back and looked for a job. Not long after, she started working for a small immigration law firm in the loop and moved to Logan Square. She spent almost two years working at Zulkie Partners LLC, where she learned a great deal about employment immigration and got practice in case management and navigating beaurocracies. She still works there part time now while attending graduate school and interning at StreetWise.

When she graduates from Jane Addams, Margaret is interested in working with people who are struggling with mental health issues while also dealing with poverty. She also wants to advocate for better access to mental health services in Chicago. Margaret is excited about interning at StreetWise because she admires the multi-dimensional element of the organization; StreetWise provides participants with social services, a means of employment, and a sense of community all in one place. Through interning with StreetWise, Margaret hopes that she will be able to hone her direct service skills, get to know the vendors, learn how to write grant applications, and get a better sense of the network of organizations in Chicago. She believes that building relationships with other social service providers will help her in becoming a more effective provider herself when she graduates, so she is eager to meet and get to know people from other organizations around the city as well.

SARAH BOULTON is a first year student at Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC. She currently reside in East Lakeview. Originally from Michigan, Sarah came to Chicago three years ago. Since that time she has worked at Northwestern Medical Center.

Sarah was born in Reno, Nev. and moved to Dexter, Mich. at the age of 2. She attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, majoring in English literature and sociology. She continues to be an avid Wolverines fan.

Sarah is extremely excited for the opportunity to intern at StreetWise. She believes strongly in the mission of StreetWise and has been a long-time fan of the magazine. She is looking forward to meeting lots of new people and gaining some skills in the field of social service.

Upon completion of her Masters in Social Work, Sarah is interested in working in direct service. She has special interest in Medical Social Work. Additionally, she plans to pursue a master’s in public health. Ideally, she would like to have a fulfilling career in the Chicago area.

In her free time, Sarah loves reading and exploring the city. She also enjoys spending time at home with her cat, Jackson. She enjoys playing multiple sports, including swimming, water polo, softball and bowling.

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