Below is the audio from interviews I did with two of the staff members at My Friend’s Place, broken up into little chapters, with accompanying transcripts!
I hope it’s enjoyable and illuminating (but not too illuminating because I burn easily)
Check it out:
Who are you?
Tucker May: So, to start off, tell us your name and what it is that you do for My Friend’s Place.
Natalie Schaffer: My name is Natalie Schaffer. I’m the development associate at My Friend’s Place. I’ve been here about a year and a half. I do a lot of the fundraising and grant writing – all of the marketing materials, social networking . . .
Tucker: Wow, you wear a lot of hats it sounds like.
Natalie: Yeah. We need to really work within our community to spread awareness and to get funds and make friends and just share with the world what we do.
Erin Casey: My name is Erin Casey and I’m the Clinical Director at My Friend’s Place. I’ll celebrate nine years here in June.
Tucker: Well, congratulations on that.
Erin: Thank you!
What does My Friend’s Place do?
Tucker: Talk to me just about the main mission statement behind My Friend’s Place.
Natalie: We are a drop-in resource center in Hollywood. We serve homeless youth between the ages of 12 and 25.
Erin: The mission is to assist and inspire homeless youth to build self-sufficient lives.
Natalie: We have our programming in three focus areas: a Safe Haven, Transformative Education, and our Health and Well-Being Program. Young people will come out and they can sign up for clothing, showers, food, computer workshops, case management, employment services, educational services. We can help them transition hopefully into housing. So it’s a vast array of services.
What are the principles driving My Friend’s Place?
Tucker: What are the underlying philosophies or beliefs that lead you guys to that mission?
Erin: Low barrier is definitely one of our service philosophies. We recognize that homeless young people won’t access support services if the barrier is too high. And for some people the barrier is too high by requiring that they have an ID. So we reduce all the barriers to access. And that’s just with this general idea that any minute spent inside of our doors with caring, supportive adults is a safer minute than one spent outside.
Natalie: We try to sort of see the strengths before the weaknesses. We’re just focused in the report-building and trust-building. Our mantra is serve the person, not the personality and I think that definitely resonates. We want them to come in and we want to help them gain self-sufficiency – and whatever that looks like for each individual. So it’s definitely individualized service.
Tucker: Excellent. I will say, when I was first learning about you guys, one of the things that attracted me most to your organization was the individualized approach that you guys are very proud of.
Erin: We really try to get to know each young person as an individual. If we were creating a birthday card for a young person, 5 staff people could tell me something very personal about this young person – that he loves to skate, that his favorite movie is this, that he loves 80’s music. Our ability to get to know people on a really human level is what makes us pretty special and I think that’s part of what we’re proud of.
Dogs: [growls and snarls, but cute-like]
Erin: Can you hold on one second, Tucker? Because my dogs are playing.
Tucker: Absolutely, yeah, take care of ’em.
Erin: I’m sorry!
Tucker: No problem! Do what you need to do.
Erin: (To dogs) You guys, it’s too noisy I think.
Tucker: [Guffaws – maybe chortles? There are too many words for laughter]
Erin: (To Tucker) Can you hear them?
Tucker: No, I couldn’t. So –
Erin: You couldn’t? Okay. Will you tell me if you start to pick up on them?
Tucker: I will tell you.
Erin: We believe in dogs. That’s our principle.
[QUICK NOTE – For the record, at the time I actually couldn’t hear the dogs. Clearly the microphone picked up on them, but my error-prone human ears must have missed it. Just wanted to clear that up, since the transcript above makes me seem like a liar, liar pants-on-fire.]
How does My Friend’s Place work to foster creativity?
Tucker: Obviously, I’m a very creative person myself. What do you do there at My Friend’s Place to foster some creativity in the youth that come in?
Natalie: Sure. That’s a great question. And it’s, you know, it’s huge for me too. I’m an artist myself. We have a lot of programming that revolves around the creative arts. We’ll have jewelry workshop; we’ll have sewing, paint –
Erin: – An improv workshop –
Natalie: – Spoken word –
Erin: – Music, recording –
Natalie: Journaling, silkscreening. So it’s definitely a big part of our services here.
Care to share any personal experiences with the youth at My Friend’s Place?
Tucker: Um, if you don’t mind, could I ask you if you have any personal anecdotes about maybe working with a young person that you would be willing to share?
Erin: Yeah. I mean, a million – a million, right?
Natalie: I was working with a young person that was interested in finding employment. So we did a mock interview, which was really fun. I had never done anything like that. We got him clothes to wear. He didn’t get the job offer, which – you know – what disheartening. He was a little discouraged at first, but then the next week he ended up getting hired. Two jobs! Completely all on his own. So, I don’t know if I had anything to do with it; it was just sort of like he had more confidence in himself maybe because he knew that we were rooting for him.
Erin: Regretfully, a client that we had known for many years – she started running away from home when she was fourteen – um, she overdosed this month at the age of eighteen. The day after we learned that she had died, she received mail from a family member. And I returned the mail, just with my business card and said, “I wanted to get this back to you and if you want to call us, please do.” Um, it was her mom and we just had this beautiful conversation. Immediately, with what sounded like tears in her voice, said, “You know, I – as a mom, what it meant to me to know that she had a place like that to go to . . .” And we didn’t know this, but her mom knew some of us by name – not because we had ever talked to Mom but because she had talked – her mom talked to me about our Cirque Room*. She had never been to our agency but she perfectly described our Cirque Room because her daughter had described the Cirque Room. It’s that kind of feedback and it’s that kind of understanding. To know that for that mom, knowing that we were here and she said, “You know, you guys have to know that you were her second family.”
Tucker: That’s amazing.
*The MFP Cirque Room is exactly what it sounds like: an open room full of balance beams, unicycles, and Spanish Webs where the youth can take classes that encourage physical exercise and positive risk-taking.
Any final words?
Tucker: Let me see, is there anything else that you would like to say?
Natalie: If anyone is interested in learning more, please visit our website: www.myfriendsplace.org and you can learn all about us!