As Greensboro’s innovative day center for those experiencing homelessness, the Interactive Resource Center (IRC) offers free, no-questions-asked health services and counseling.
UNCG professor Fran Pearson ’91, ’01 MSW sees it providing real-world, hands-on experience for her students, as they provide impactful services for the IRC guests.
These Congregational Social Work Educational Initiative (CSWEI) interns are participants in a unique collaboration between UNCG, NC A&T, and Cone Health’s Congregational Nurse Program, funded by the Cone Health Foundation. Pearson’s background includes both nursing and social work. A “double alumna,” she received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and her masters degree in social work at UNCG.
The students learn so much by doing, and the IRC offers so much under one roof, she recently explained. “Here’s a nurse, here’s a social worker. You walk in this door, we’re going to get you medical care, we’re going to find you a therapist, we’ve got you a case manager.”
It is important that the IRC is based in the local community, Pearson explains. For many guests, navigating the medical system can be challenging, traumatic, and expensive. By providing primary interventions, free of charge, social work services are opened up to people who may not traditionally have access to them. And, it gives the interns the opportunity for meaningful, hands-on learning.
Individuals who may be experiencing homelessness, medical emergencies, or personal crises meet a care team: a blended group of 14 undergraduate and graduate social work students who have participated in two months of intensive “social work bootcamp.” Under the supervision of Pearson and IRC staff, the team gets invaluable training to carry into their future careers.
“We work together,” she says, “starting right at the beginning of the day, on how we are going to help move clients forward.” They help change lives.
“And all you have to do is walk in that door.”
By Avery Campbell
Photography by Martin W. Kane