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Shelter in the Storm

Social work graduate helped Father Bill’s clients through height of pandemic
Story Series
Bridgewater Magazine

When Ludmila Silva, ’20, signed up last year for an internship at Father Bill’s & MainSpring in Brockton, an agency that assists the area’s homeless population, she knew the work would be challenging.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Things got even more challenging, almost overwhelming, she said. “But the way Father Bill’s works is that everyone collaborates, and we all worked together so well in order to get through this, it was amazing,” the Taunton native said. “If not for that, I don’t know if I’d have made it.”

Her internship ran from September 2019 through April 2020, when she was hired as a full-time employee by the organization. The job fulfilled a long-held desire for Ms. Silva. “I’ve always been driven to help people,” she said.

“First, I wanted to be a social worker in the medical field, but once I got here to Father Bill’s, where you work with so many different people, it really intrigued me.”

Father Bill’s motto of “Housing First,” means staff members are always actively working to find its many clients somewhere to live. This effort, in particular, drew Ms. Silva’s interest. The agency’s overarching mission, according to its website, is to end and prevent homelessness in Southern Massachusetts with programs that provide emergency and permanent housing, and to help its clients obtain skills, jobs, housing and services.

Ms. Silva was hired just when the pandemic was surging in Massachusetts, and as it reached its peak, the on-the-job challenges grew.

“One difficulty was getting in contact with your clients, as many of them don’t have phones,” she said. Delivering food, due to coronavirus-related impacts on local food pantries, became a growing part of the job, as well. In addition, the usual task of assisting clients with other area resources became difficult because many agencies and nonprofits were closed.

Ms. Silva also faced personal challenges. Along with her internship, she worked a regular night shift as a residence counselor at Brockton Area Multi-Services Inc., a private, nonprofit human services organization, and she is raising a child. Ever looming was the concern of bringing the virus home or spreading it to any number of the clients she worked with on a regular basis.

“That turned out to be a challenge,” she said. “How to keep distanced from the clients who did have coronavirus, yet still provide them with the services they need. At one point, it got overwhelming; you want to help, but you’re scared about getting it or bringing it home to your child. You want to do the job and help the people, but you’re torn to make sure everybody’s safe.”

In September, Ms. Silva applied for admission into BSU’s Master of Social Work program. It’s clear with the tests she has already faced on the job that she is well on her way toward a career devoted to helping others.

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