This week, we spoke with Program Coordinator Michael Shields about his experiences working at Carpenter’s Shelter.

How long ago did you start working at Carpenter’s Shelter? What attracted you to their mission?
I began working for Carpenter’s Shelter through what is now called Winter Shelter in November of 2005. I was interested in working with Carpenter’s because I had previous experience working with Hypothermia clients, and the Shelter was close to my home. I wanted to continue making a difference with my work.

What sets Carpenter’s Shelter apart from other organizations?
Carpenter’s Shelter is different because of the way the staff interacts with residents, and clients at David’s Place and Winter Shelter. They create an atmosphere that is both professional and caring.

What are your job responsibilities?
My primary role is Program Coordinator, but my job finds me doing whatever is needed. As Program Coordinator, I perform eligibility screenings and schedule clients for shelter. My job requires that I manage phone calls concerning shelter, and direct clients to the proper service provider where necessary.

Additionally, I’m responsible for coordinating with both shelters in the city (Alexandria Community Shelter and Carpenter’s Shelter) concerning bed space availability and placement of clients into shelter, as well as inputting information into the city database, HMIS (Homeless Management Information Systems).

How did your background prepare you for this job at the Shelter?
I’ve always worked in the customer service field, so working with people came naturally to me. Working with the disadvantaged population gave me an understanding of what was necessary, but my preparation came mostly from on-the-job training. My co-workers provided me with great leadership, and helped me gain knowledge and a true understanding of what Carpenter’s mission of helping the homeless is all about.

What aspects of your job at Carpenter’s Shelter do you find most rewarding?
Getting to see clients come in from off the streets and begin to utilize the resources that Carpenter’s Shelter provides. Watching our clients move from the Shelter into permanent housing, and being able to continue on in life’s journey, is certainly inspiring.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that this organization does?
Carpenter’s Shelter is a great community resource. They remember the forgotten, help those with no voice find a voice. Carpenter’s helps Shelter clients regain hope by treating them with love, respect and dignity.

What one phrase would you use to describe Carpenter’s Shelter?
Caring is what we do!

What has been your biggest takeaway from working at Carpenter’s Shelter?
The understanding of the homeless and their needs has been a big takeaway. But mainly the teamwork and support that is demonstrated daily by the Board members, Executive Director, Deputy Director, and all the staff and volunteers and interns who make Carpenter’s Shelter one of the greatest places that I have ever worked — without a doubt.