“The IRC has more doors than walls.”
The community site where I chose to volunteer this semester through PPS is located in downtown Greensboro and is known as the Interactive Resource Center (IRC). I chose this center because it is a grassroots organization and has come a long way since its beginning. It's a multi-purpose center for individuals who are dealing with homelessness or at risk at becoming homeless. I chose to volunteer at this center because I volunteered here before by helping individuals build resumes, but I wanted to gain experience in the housing area as well.
The Interactive Resource Center’s mission is to “assist people who are homeless, recently homeless or facing homelessness reconnect with their own lives and with the community at large.” (Interactive Resource Center, 2010).
The IRC provides assistance in various areas. For example, they have a nurse on staff to see individuals who may need their blood pressure checked or assistance if they are sick. After an assessment guests are allowed to receive referrals to local places for food, clothing, financial assistance, and furniture. In addition to this the IRC also helps homeless people build a resume, print an ID card, access housing assistance, get lunch if needed, or obtain clothing for interviews.
One aspect about the IRC that I think has allowed the organization so much success is the sense of community that exists on site between the volunteers, staff, and clients. Even though each separate area of assistance has a different leader, all of the employees work interchangeably on a daily basis. While volunteering there, I thought it was great to have so much interaction between the departments. I think the open structure that allows this sense of community to exist directly correlates to this organizations success. Since 2009, what is known today as the IRC began in the basement of Bessemer United Church and is now located in its own warehouse, today serving 150-200 clients a day. Now, that to me spells success.
After reflecting further on the open organizational structure I noticed that it could sometimes become chaotic. I observed the open lobby a few weeks ago and noticed how numerous clients were waiting to receive help.Though chaotic, the sense of community that they are creating through their assistance is shining through. Looking at it from a clients' perspective the organizational structure used makes a lot of sense. Individuals who are homeless or facing a financial crisis might have a tendency to shy away from a very formal organization in my opinion because it could make them uncomfortable. Asking for assistance is a hard first step, but I think the informality of the IRC helps lessen this pressure for potential clients. For example, upon arrival if you're a client you aren't immediately slammed with paperwork and intake forms. You can choose to mingle in the open area with others if you wish and get a feel for the place and then choose to fill out a form if you want any services. The openness as you immediately walk in is nice as a client or as a volunteer because the informality puts you at ease.
Often, when I've spoken with others, formal structure is seen as very important in an organization. And often with this formality there is a lack of community because the roles of the employees are concrete and not much room is left for conversation that could help with community growth. Control within an organization is needed, but not to an overwhelming extent. With that said we should not forget about the possible success that may come from an informal organization. What matters most is appealing to those who you are trying to assist in a non-profit and I believe that the IRC does a great job at creating an open environment for clients facing homelessness.
To learn more , check out the IRC's Video Link.