I’m not going to lie- I did not have high hopes for Philadelphia as a city. My placement? Absolutely. Living in intentional community? You bet. But Philly? The thing I was the most excited about was the fact that I did not have to drive for a whole three-hundred-and-sixty-five days. I have now been here for almost five months, and as is generally the case with moving halfway across the country and starting a new job, it has been much more than I expected (shocking, I know.).
I have been somewhat biased against the Northeast as a whole, and there was not much I had ever heard about Philadelphia that prompted me to look closer. I arrived in the middle of July, when the free outdoor events were in full swing- concerts, movies in the park, yoga by the Schuylkill, beer gardens- this painted a much more lively and exciting picture of the city where my highest expectations were of reasonably well functioning public transit (we've escaped one SEPTA strike so far, I'll keep y'all updated). It turns out that Philadelphia is actually a really cool city, with some rich history and interesting organizations to boot.
My placement as a case manager has been an incredible learning experience, and there has never been a dull day. I am the first full-time case manager at my placement, which means I have not only been learning the ropes of my position, but working with the house’s program coordinator to shape my role in the house. This location is home to sixteen formerly homeless women with a history of mental health diagnoses and/or substance abuse. My day-to-day role includes working with residents on creating care plans, assisting with daily living skills, interfacing with social service agencies, planning community building events, and dealing with mental health crises. Working with the women at my placement has taught me some valuable skills that I will be able to take with me to practically any career, as well as cemented my desire to continue my education and eventually earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
The third piece of my move to Philadelphia that has gone above and beyond to exceed expectations is the community living aspect of the program. Our housing placement is currently home to four SY members (as well as two rather exuberant yellow labs whenever the Rector is out of town). We all rapidly bonded on move-in day over a mutual love of Harry Potter. Never actually having read the last book (I know, I know, but I’ve read them now, okay!), I spent the month of September re-reading and reading all seven of the books. We have also bonded over a mutual love of Disney and puzzles, and rather quickly formed a tight-knit group. We all have different placements (and work schedules), and it has been great to come home every day to such a supportive community. We have some established routines and guidelines that make our community living more “intentional”. We try to eat all our meals in the kitchen instead of our individual rooms, we have community dinner on Tuesdays, and we say compline together on weeknights.
It has become clear to me that I rather underestimated both the city I now call home, and the program that brought me here. I fully expect for the rest of my months here to continue to exceed even the revised expectations I now have for my year of service.
Elizabeth Serves as Case Manager at Bethesda Project.