Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Think I've Figured it Out

In my current job, I do quite a bit of event planning. We only have events about twice a year, but when we do, they're big, and there's a significant amount of planning involved. I had a dream, rather a nightmare, last night, that centered around a work event. There was a big meeting or conference that I helped organize and when I glanced at my watch it was 3:00 PM and not only had lunch not been served, it hadn't even been ordered and people were hungry and mad. At me. Boy was I glad it was just a dream.

I think I had that dream, because I've been stressing a bit over my first writing assignment for the School of Social Work. I don't have a problem writing once I know what I want to say, but my problem has been knowing what to say. I've been mulling over this assignment for weeks now and the due date is right around the corner, Aug. 1. For years, I've had dreams that I'm either in High School or college and I've spent the whole semester not going to class and then at the end I'm scrambling to figure out how to come out with at least a C. The other night I dreamt that I was a freshman at UNC again, along with all my suitemates, but that we were all our current ages and we already knew each other. I was the only one who hadn't paid my tuition bill and was confused about my class schedule. (I can hear you guys laughing, that's not too far from reality, is it?)

But now, there's a real reason for these dreams. I will be starting back at Carolina in a few weeks, and tuition and this first writing assignment are due on Aug. 1. And I haven't taken care of either yet. And while the tuition solution still elludes me (I just had to pay over $500 yesterday for four new tires!), I think I've finally figured out the basis of my writing assignment.

We are to dream up an ideal social service agency and pretend we're submitting a grant proposal to fund such an agency. We have to make a case for the need for this agency in our community and outline the mission, services, target popluation, staff, etc. My very first instinct was for a parenting co-op for evenings and weekends, then something involving literacy, then a comprehensive employment agency for men re-entering the community after being discharged from Orange Correctional Center. It's been hard coming up with an idea that hasn't already been addressed in some way in Orange County. Then I read some reports that summarize trends in Orange County and the social service strengths and weaknesses and came to this conclusion: How about a "service house" or a place called "Orange County Connects" that is more than a notebook or list or hotline or database of all of the social services available in Orange County, but a physical place to go to connect with live bodies who specialize in connecting the "needers" (I just made that word up) to what's already out there and then creatively with community members, leaders, etc. coming up with ways to fill in the gaps. I don't want to call them "case workers" so let's call them "connectors." You'd have connectors that have their hands on the pulse of what's out there (and needed) in the areas of: healthcare, affordable housing, education and training, obtaining and maintaining gainful employment, crisis intervention, quality childcare, faith-based efforts, etc.

In short: don't re-create the wheel or at least the entire wheel when you don't need to. In a May, 2006 a report on the Orange County Homeless Community, as a result of a UNC-School of Public Health class assignment, indicated the need for comprehensive, transitional housing and employment support for individuals who are re-entering the community. That's exactly what Caramore Commuity, Inc. (where David works) excels at, although their services are specifically for mentally-ill adults. Ok, but at least Caramore staff could consult and train and maybe expand their offerings since their model works. Later in the report, a recommendation is made to have more computers and internet access available to residents of homeless shelters. That's exactly what's available at the Orange County Skills Development/JobLink Center! Why didn't these UNC students know about the OCSDC?? I'm sitting in a Church and Society Committee meeting and committee members are lamenting that there are virtually no rehabilitative programs available to the inmates at the Orange Correctional Center. Well, yes there are! The Orange County Literacy Council has been doing great things up there for over 10 years!

If "Orange County Connects" existed in a friendly, comfortable enviroment on the busline in Chapel Hill, with progressive, creative, educated, qualified, trained, compassionate and resourceful individuals that help people in need find the help they needed, maybe what's out there (and there's a whole lot out there) could be leveraged and the proverbial dogs would quit chasing their proverbial tails.

1 comment:

Bird Spot said...

Ahem, correction: David has just been named the Vice President of Caramore Community, Inc! I'm really proud of you, David. Way to go!