This month’s Staff Spotlight, Sonia Cabrera celebrates her one-year anniversary at St. Francis House this month. As a Programs Assistant stationed on our third floor, Sonia splits her time between guiding guests towards the services they need and supporting her co-workers, so they are prepared for challenges throughout the day. She makes it a top priority to learn about the programs we provide, and where guests access them so she can be an effective guide for guests who come to the third floor. She also takes pride in making the third floor a welcoming and positive environment for guests and staff.
Could you describe your work as a Programs Assistant?
On the third floor we have case management offices, housing offices, and some staff from workforce development.
With the housing team, I help them when it comes to making home starter kits distributed when a guest is recently housed. I’ll also help them with miscellaneous tasks.
And with the case management team, I’m with them when it comes to team meetings. I come up with workflow make it a little bit easier for case managers to balance out their schedules while also managing the front desk area.
When you’re managing the front desk area, you’re probably the first one guests talk to on the floor. Could you speak a little bit about why it’s important to have someone who’s ready to welcome the guests to the floor?
When it comes to the third floor, I think it’s one of the most misunderstood floors at St. Francis House. Once guests hear the word “case management” or they hear “housing,” they automatically think “this is where everything is,” or “this is what I need right now! Who can I see? ” when it is not that simple.
One of the things that I did when I first got here was really take the time to try to figure out what services are offered at St. Francis and what services are offered specifically on the third floor. So, when guests come in, I can better direct them.
I think having just the right attitude when someone comes in, understanding that if someone comes in a little bit agitated it is not because they woke up that way but it could be that they did not know where to go and have been running around the building.
You have to be someone that understands. You have to be someone that has empathy and also see the guests when they come in as an individual. Having someone on the third floor when you walk in who greets you with a smile in a welcoming space and gives clear directions is important.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
There’s a lot! Now that I have been here for almost a year, I have figured out my workflow more.
I really enjoy making sure the break room is kept clean. I am always trying to make sure it’s fully stocked and organized, because the break room is the only place where guests are not allowed. If staff are outside or in the hallway, guests can come and ask questions.
I also just enjoy being around my coworkers. I think everyone here does a phenomenal job. They go above and beyond every day, so I enjoy doing something as simple as having candy at my desk when you come upstairs. Sometimes if they had a tough day, a case manager or housing staff would sit there and eat some candy and talk to me about their day.
What I enjoy is trying to make a smooth, calm atmosphere so that my coworkers can give their best to the guests.
Is there anything you wish people knew about your role or your department?
My role is developing the same way that St. Francis house is developing. I find myself doing a little bit more than when I first started.
I love when we bring a new employee in and I have the opportunity to make sure their office has everything that they need. It feels nice to do that. It may seem simple, but when they walk in one day one with a welcome sign on the door and a full stocked office, I feel like it’s a sign they made the right choice in joining St. Francis House.
Something I would say about this floor that maybe people wouldn’t know is everybody here really works as a team. There are different departments on the third floor, but you can see them running into each other’s offices, asking questions, asking for guidance, tag teaming to help one guest.
With my role, I would call myself the “under advisor.” I’m not a supervisor. I will not tell you what to do, but I would definitely remind you of what you should do—with love and respect!
Is there anything you want to say about your work?
I am guest facing, but I’m not having that one-on-one interaction with guests. That’s why I really take pride in helping my coworkers in any way that I can. I do my part so that my coworkers can do theirs.
I do my best to always have a smile on my face, I believe that makes an impact. I mean, they do call be “sunshine!” If there’s one thing that I would tell everyone to do it’s “just smile.”
A smile can change the course of someone’s whole day. It’s just so welcoming! When guests come in, I don’t know what their night was like, and when they walk into the third floor I smile, because want them to know that this is a safe space.