Thursday, October 24, 2013

UNCG VISTA expands partnership to fight homelessness, hunger

Devin Corrigan wasn't exactly sure what to expect when she joined the North Carolina Campus Compact VISTA team in August of this year. But she describes life as a VISTA so far as undeniably awesome. Devin is the NC Campus Compact VISTA placed at UNC Greensboro in the Office of Leadership and Service-Learning and the Interactive Resource Center. The Interactive Resource Center (IRC) assists people who are homeless, recently homeless or facing homelessness reconnect with their own lives and with the community at large. Devin is the second NC Campus Compact VISTA hosted by UNCG to work with the IRC. Her predecessor, Anya Piotrowski, helped to start the IRC's community garden.

Though Devin has only been at her site for just a couple short months, she's already had a wealth of experiences and built up a knowledge base about the work she's doing. She says the biggest surprise for her was the chaos. She describes homelessness as being chaotic and unstable by nature and says she experiences some of it by proxy, working at the IRC. This has been a challenge for her to work through, but feels like she's learning to adapt to the fluidity of the organization and meet people where they are. She's proud of working "together with" the people the IRC serves, rather than "working for," or worse, "working on" them.

While at the IRC she will be piloting a financial literacy program for their guests. Many of the IRC's guests are "unbanked," meaning they do not have a bank account and utilize check cashing services as their primary financial institutions. This is problematic because many check cashing services are expensive, predatory, and discourage saving. One of Devin's goals is to develop an IDA (Individual Development Account) program at the IRC that would match guests' savings. She describes the IRC's needs for this year and the future:

"I think that capacity building is a huge need for the IRC and VISTAs are critical in making that happen. The number of guests we serve keep growing and we need to determine how to best utilize our resources to meet that need. As a VISTA, I am hoping to expand partnerships at the IRC so that we aren't duplicating services or competing for resources with other organizations in our community." 
When she's not at the IRC most recently she's been organizing student leaders on UNCG's campus to plan and execute UNCG's Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. She very pleased with both the administration at UNCG and the students. She says the administration is supportive and the students are both passionate and creative.

Devin spent four years at and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 2013.
While there, she double majored in Political Science, and Ethics and Social Institutions with a concentration in American Poverty. She loves Asheville and believes everyone should visit. She became a VISTA because she wanted to be engaged in the community full-time. As an undergrad she worked on different poverty alleviation efforts as an intern or volunteer. She wanted to learn, grow, and do more and AmeriCorps VISTA seemed like a good fit.She hopes this year of service will help her learn more about herself and what direction she would like to go in the future. She's open to more service, working as staff in the nonprofit world, traveling, or trying something totally new. Eventually she plans to attend graduate school but says she'll cross that bridge when she comes to it.

In her free time she likes to run, read, bake, go to concerts, and hang out with her friends. She just recently started playing ultimate Frisbee and says she's bad at it but earnest. One day she'd like to have both a motorcycle and a puppy. Devin grew up in a large Irish Catholic family in Queens, NY and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina with her family when she was in high school. She says she loves North Carolina, Asheville in particular, but will always call Queens home. She has two younger brothers, both of whom are about a foot taller than her, and who she says are by far the funniest people she's ever met. True to her roots, she's an avid Giants fan.