To commemorate Social Work Month:
“Social workers stand up for millions of people every day. These include people who are experiencing devastating illnesses and mental health crises, our veterans, children, families and communities. Yet many people still misunderstand who social workers are and the invaluable contributions they bring to society.” Excerpt from the National Association of Social Workers website
Liz Wall has always wanted to help people. From a very young age, her involvement in youth groups at Nassau Presbyterian Church exposed her to the ways in which she could reach out and lend a hand. She remembers volunteering in our food pantries as a child – watching, learning, and developing a passion for compassion. Now, Arm In Arm is fortunate to have her on staff as Housing Stability Program Coordinator.
As a college student majoring in Sociology, Liz took mission trips to Africa and eventually wrote her thesis on HIV and AIDS in Ghana. After graduating, she spent a gap year in Belfast, Ireland, working with youth groups and at-risk populations. Her path toward becoming a social worker was clear, and an MSW degree from Rutgers School of Social Work soon followed. After graduation, Liz came to Arm In Arm with the know-how and experience necessary to run a program that is an integral part of our Homelessness Prevention services.
More than 30 men and women per year are assisted through the Housing Stability Case Management program, with the personal, case by case attention that Liz provides. “Although I’m not doing direct counseling, case management is very clinical” says Liz. “I listen to people’s stories as they work through some pretty traumatic experiences. Outreach in the homeless community requires real, basic social work skills. I have learned, using my clinical background, to empower clients and determine what services will benefit them most.”
Community members facing the threat of homelessness are referred to Liz’s five-month program to work together towards a more stable future. Liz connects her clients with services to overcome prohibitive financial barriers – budgeting sessions, better health insurance, reliable child care, job opportunities – and all come in to play as they make a case plan and move forward. “You want to empower the client to feel confident and stable in their decisions, and capable of moving forward on their own after the five-month program comes to an end,” she says.
Liz feels that working arm in arm with her clients is crucial to their success. “From a social work standpoint, being able to build a rapport with clients makes the experience much more successful in the end. We have to have difficult conversations with the people we serve, but it’s necessary to build the bond between client and social worker. Mutual respect and honesty is key.”
Liz brings an upbeat attitude, generous laugh, and huge heart to her work at Arm In Arm. She connects with people in a wonderful way, and her clients know that she is there for them. “My social work schooling has taught me about different cultural backgrounds and different ways to talk to people,” she says. “I meet them where they are and I’m on the same level, no matter what their situation. We all have the same core values and desire to have some very basic needs met. Social work training teaches you to respect.”