Erin Gorman, JV AmeriCorps Member in the Boise, ID Community, relays her community’s work and play in the surprisingly diverse and active City of Trees.
Greetings from the City of Trees! Throughout the past 10 (short!) months, the JV Americorps Members in Boise have been busy serving an immense variety of populations throughout our city. It has been a challenging experience with plenty of opportunities for growth. Community meals are saturated with colorful discussions, especially when many subjects, whether it is local legislation or a new agency’s arrival to the Boise area, affect each of our service sites.
Sarah’s placement, at the Women’s and Children’s Alliance (WCA), offers safety, shelter and counseling for those experiencing domestic abuse and sexual assault. Corpus Christi House, where Michelle serves, follows the Catholic Worker model.
Every day, guests experiencing homelessness can find a daytime center with basic amenities, a light breakfast, and most importantly, hot coffee.
Brendan’s time is split between two agencies. At Catholic Charities, his service focuses on refugees new to the Boise area, especially through the weekly English classes he instructs. At Salvation Army, a large part of his service involves assisting clients with energy bill needs and food security through their energy assistance program and food bank. I am a nurse at Terry Reilly Health Services, where I interact with patients during office visits and lab appointments.
A large portion of our patient care is funded by a grant specifically for patients considered homeless; this provides for office visits, as well as many medications and lab tests.
Despite the wide cross section of social justice issues each placement encounters, all of the Boise JV Americorps Members find the nature of our service constantly overlapping.
At Terry Reilly, I administer tuberculosis tests and assist with basic shelter exams for new residents at the WCA. This also enables me to explain the grant for homeless patients to receive health care, in cases where WCA residents do not have insurance. Similarly, Michelle often refers patients to Terry Reilly, conveniently located a few blocks from Corpus Christi. If my patients mention needing help paying utility bills, I’ll recommend contacting Salvation Army. Despite Boise’s small size, the social justice issues surrounding each individual we serve are multi-faceted. The opportunity to expand our utilization of resources has been guided by much interaction between organizations. One such group is the Homeless Coalition. This is a monthly meeting Michelle attends with representatives from many community organizations serving the homeless, including the WCA, Terry Reilly, and Corpus Christi. Discussion includes review of programs and resources, as well new agencies, creating a network facilitating communication between participating agencies.
One unexpected perk of living in Boise is vibrancy of life in the city itself. We are surrounded by incredible natural beauty: from the unique high desert landscape of sagebrush and rolling foothills, to the towering trees lining the Boise river and the greenbelt bicycle “highway”—which makes bike commuting a breeze! Steep canyons, hot springs, white water rafting, mountain biking, and skiing are all within an hour’s (sometimes minutes’) drive from Boise! In spite of our busy schedules, we have still have found time to enjoy these unusual advantages of living in such an active city. Generous friends (especially native Boiseans!) are so enthusiastic in sharing equipment and experience with us. Boise is incredibly invested in conservation of these natural resources, especially in regard to the foothills and Boise River. The focus on local businesses and economy is also admirable for a city of its size (just over 200.000 people in the city itself). Initiatives like “Buy Idaho” and “Think Boise First” have created conscientious consumers out of all of us, and encourage shoppers to consider local options for everything from housewares and home services to groceries and restaurants. The farmers’ market, local record stores, eateries, shops, and even our grocery co-op emphasize sourcing goods from as near as possible.
It has been quite the adventure exploring the many opportunities Boise has presented to us. Although we have each grown as individuals this year, what is perhaps even more gratifying is seeing the productive changes in our patients’, guests’, and residents’ lives. Trials and tribulations transform to triumphs. Sick patients get well with much needed care. Residents fleeing for their safety find new hope and independence. Refugees learn to navigate American culture and language. Guests find housing, jobs, and new avenues for success. While every story is not always one of success, together
we have each been able to impact Boise in small ways through these individuals. Many people we engage with fall through the cracks of a system beyond their or our control, and this paints a greater picture of who every JV Americorps member serves, regardless of their city or placement. We remain motivated through small achievements and improvements, and having the support of community has been immensely important to share this journey with.