As Programs Assistant, Rachel Shuman takes on a wide variety of roles and challenges. Rachel plays an integral part of a variety of staff committees including the Advocacy Committee and the Social Activities Committee. Her organization and foresight help staff work together efficiently so departments can come together to provide integrated programs and initiatives that support our guests. Rachel is guided by her passion for advocacy and credits her colleagues for truly making new programs and initiatives possible.
How long have you been at the St. Francis House and what do you do here?
It was a year in August. My role is focused on interdepartmental projects, so I do a lot of coordination work with all the associate directors and the head of the Recovery Support Center.
I provide administrative help and assist with the actual implementation and development of new initiatives and programs.
Things like working with behavioral health to set up immigration clinics, coordinating the expense reports for all of our programs and services each month, assisting with coordinating the DEI initiatives, the Social Activities Committee, helping plan and coordinate the staff appreciation event. I fill in the gaps wherever people need help.
Do you also help coordinate guest-oriented projects and initiatives?
Absolutely. I helped start the Advocacy Committee and we’ve been doing voter registration drives throughout October.
I’m lucky in my position that, even though it’s administrative, there is still that direct care aspect to it. In the projects that I’m helping develop I am able see them from start to finish and also get to interact with the guests. That’s pretty special for me.
Could you go into more detail about a guest facing program like the voter registration drive?
My background is a mix of things working in nonprofit shelters with different populations than St. Francis House. My roles have always shifted towards advocacy work, specifically political advocacy within organizations.
In my time at St. Francis house I saw a great opportunity to engage staff and guest voices in the policies and decisions that elected representatives were making about our population and about our community.
I feel it’s a responsibility we have. We can do everything we can within these walls, but outside of the walls of St. Francis house, people making decisions need to hear the voices of the people most impacted by these policies.
We have the capacity to make sure that those voices get heard. Not to speak for them, but to, register them to vote, so that if they want to engage in voting and using their voice that way then they’re able to.
By Tuesday [October 11], we’d registered about 35 people in total so far, but we’ve engaged with a number of people wanting to know what’s on the upcoming ballot in November, what the ballot questions are, who is up for election, and where different polling places are so that they can vote.
I had a conversation with a gentleman who was asking about eligibility. If someone has been convicted of a felony, there’s a general assumption that they are disenfranchised and no longer able to vote, which is not the case in Massachusetts.
Having conversations like that with people, that’s the crux of it. That’s what the goal is. Letting people know that they do have a voice, that they do have a say in their future.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most?
The people. The staff and the guests. They’re all such a riot and just so fun to work with. This was my first full-time job out of school so I’m young and still establishing my career. I could not be more grateful that this is the place I get to do that.
A lot of the people that work here have been in this field for decades and have known the guests just as long. They know the intricacies and the ins and outs of how this all works and the humanity of it.
To be able to learn from those individuals at such a young age and be able to take that with me throughout the rest of my career and my life is an honor.
It’s really a privilege to be able to take on what I can and watch them do incredible work.
Is there anything that you wish people knew about your role or as your department?
I started a little over a year ago and before that my specific position had never existed.
I can’t stress enough how appreciative I am of my colleagues who have taken me under their wing and are teaching me the ins and outs of their departments, but also St. Francis House as a whole.
There’s also this incredible balance of respect and trust that I feel to pursue projects and initiatives that I’m passionate about. Things like the advocacy committee where there was a level of trust in me bringing that forward and them saying “That’s a great idea, go for it.”
I’ve been really grateful for people giving me the tools and the room that I need to grow as an employee and as a person in social services.
The work that gets done here; I don’t take credit for any of that. From C.E.S. to facilities, to the kitchen staff, they are the hands and hearts and faces of St. Francis House.
I’m not doing anything revolutionary, but I get to be in the background and support the people who are doing the revolutionary work. That’s pretty special for me.