You may have not heard of AmeriCorps before, but you should. Because in a time of budget cuts, publicity is survival. And whether or not you’re aware, nonprofits and initiatives like Housing 1000 can thrive because of the generous service of AmeriCorps members.
There are many branches of AmeriCorps. The programs are similar to Peace Corps, but in America, and only for one year (12 months). One branch of AmeriCorps is Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA), which is the national service program designed specifically to fight poverty. Volunteers are allowed a small living stipend and assigned a project to complete with a nonprofit organization or government agency.
Over the years, VISTA members have made a huge impact on homelessness in Santa Clara County. Project Homeless Connect, for example, has long been a VISTA-coordinated project through the City of San José. This year we’re lucky to have our VISTA member, Katherine Erickson, working part-time on the Housing 1000 Campaign’s blog, social media channels, and website development and maintenance. Since August 1st, Katherine has completed a big website redesign (with another update coming up!), established our official blog, helped manage social media accounts and increased awareness of our work to house 1,000 people by 2013—all in addition to her role as Project Homeless Connect Coordinator.
During the beginning of her VISTA year in July of 2011, Katherine taught herself to code in HTML and CSS and designed our current WordPress theme (entitled simply, “H1k theme”) in only two months. She later implemented Google Analytics on the wordpress site, so we can measure it when our wonderful supporters drop by to take a look. She also established our Google+ presence.
Katherine has recruited survey volunteers and facilitated HMIS training. She has traveled all over the county to conduct interviews, and authored blog posts and newsletter articles that increase awareness and understanding of our work. Katherine drafted and formatted the articles of the Housing 1000 December newsletter and researched different email distribution support options to select our current system. She recruited a pro bono professional photographer and helped hire a videographer to create the Campaign’s upcoming promotional video. During Katherine’s time with the City of San José and Destination: Home she has attracted subscribers to this blog, drafted blog entries, and helped coin the title of our new site, Housing ONE.
Since Katherine is the last VISTA PHC Coordinator with the City of San José, the plan is to have the community come together to manage and coordinate events. Katherine has formed a group in northern Santa Clara County to continue planning events in Sunnyvale, Milpitas and Palo Alto. Additionally, the South County PHC Homeless Outreach Task Force will plan events in Gilroy.
The success and extent of Housing 1000’s current web presence is largely due to Katherine’s service as a Volunteer In Service To America. Thank you to the Corporation for National and Community Service for sponsoring such an incredible program!
- Perchance, To Serve: National AmeriCorps Week Gives Spotlight To Country-Wide Community Service (asterisky.com)
- How AmeriCorps Works at Changing My Ideas (americorpsalums.wordpress.com)