Stabilization Coordinator Miriam Martinez joined BEDS staff in 2019. She’s focused on expanding our reach in some of our newer communities, and she’s one of the first contacts with BEDS that many people experiencing homelessness or risk of homelessness have. We wanted to feature a conversation with her as part of National Social Work Month.
Thanks for sitting down Miriam. Our social work folks come from a wide range of backgrounds. How did you get started with us?
I grew up in Chicago and went to school at Governors State University a little farther south. I graduated with a BA in Psych and wanted to go into Human Services, but I wasn’t exactly sure who I wanted to work with. In 2018, I started volunteering at a shelter site in Oak Lawn and the Daytime Support Center in Worth. After we got that grant [from the Community Memorial Foundation and Healthy Communities Foundation], I joined as a Stabilization Coordinator.
Did you do any professional social work before you came to us? Who did you work with?
Well, after graduating, I worked as a Medical Advocate for sexual assault survivors at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago’s South Suburban Center, which meant being on call 24/7 to meet with women who had been assaulted and come to hospitals...It’s hard not to carry that experience with you, especially when there are children involved, and it can be depressing and desensitizing. But it prepares you to work with people who have had some of the worst experiences imaginable, and, in the end, it puts you, or at least put me, in a position where I could better help them recover.
And now, who do you work with here at BEDS?
A lot of my work is focused on outreach. I reach a diverse range of clients and potential clients in shelters and community events, which I love because I can watch them move from their lowest points back into housing. I’m continuing to build relationships with frontline community members like police, fire department, and township staff to ensure that the right people are getting referred to us. I’m also a co-chair of the Alliance to End Homelessness’ outreach committee.
We also just got a grant through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) to house domestic violence survivors, so I’ve done some extensive [forty-hour] trainings in domestic violence and sexual assault. I’ll be the case manager for families in that program. We’re expanding it to include other victims of crime and people who have been wrongly convicted, which isn’t a huge population for us but those who have face serious barriers to housing.
What do you like most about the job?
Our clients really appreciate what we do, which I hear a lot but especially when I follow up with them [after they gain housing]. I’ve had several tell me that I “really have the heart” for this work, which is amazing, because I’ve always felt like there are people in social work or human services or what have you that really don’t have the heart. And that can leave people with unmet needs.