Ohio State University College of Social Work interns Sheema Fairley, Alonna Williams and Hunter Hardman
It’s a cheer usually reserved for The Ohio State University’s football team.
But at Homeport, “OSU” carries a special endearment off the field as well.
For the fourth year in a row, three undergraduate interns from OSU’s College of Social Work have brought their compassion and problem solving skills to the 5,626 residents of Homeport’s rental apartments and homes.
On any given day the interns connect residents with goods, assets and funds from other non-profits organizations and agencies. The needs can often be critical, from household furniture to food to utility payments.
“They are an integral part of our team,” said Alex Romstedt, Homeport’s assistant director for Learning & Engagement. “They are a huge asset.”
Homeport tries to assign the students based on interest. If it is seniors, they might be assigned senior communities, Romstedt said.
This year’s student interns were from all over Ohio: Alonna Williams from Middletown; Sheema Fairley from Lorain; Hunter Hardman from Grove City.
Sheema said one of her biggest learning experiences was interacting with residents of different cultures, as was the case with Somali immigrants living at Homeport’s Emerald Glen community.
For Alonna, the highlight came recently when a resident called to say she was struggling getting help to cover a utility bill.
Alonna called a partnering agency and found out that while emergency funds had run out for the month of February, more money was available March 1 – the next day. The resident promised to call the next day, and thanked Alonna profusely.
"You are a blessing,” the resident said. “I'm not going to give up and it's people like you that keep me motivated to pursue better. You have made my day."
Said Alonna, looking back, “Even though this moment might have been very small, it definitely reminded me that I'm in the right profession and that it's a very rewarding one.”
Hunter said her most rewarding moment came when she helped a resident get $1,000 in Gifts of Kindness program funds from the Columbus Foundation.
The resident avoided eviction, kept utilities on and retained closed captioning for her phone, an important facet since she has diminished hearing. Hunter even persuaded a local physician to accept insurance provided through Obamacare.
“When I told her the news, she cried,” Hunter recalled. “It was awesome to see how happy she was.”
The OSU students, all seniors, finish their internships at Homeport in April. A new batch is expected back at the end of summer. “We always miss them when they are gone from May to August,” said Homeport’s Romstedt.