Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Taking stock of yourself before your first interview

Before Monday's class (or when you complete your first interview with the women at The Gathering Place), I would like you to take some time to reflect on your expectations for this next phase of our course. What do you expect your experience will be like as you conduct these interviews? What questions, concerns, hopes, or anxieties do you have? What do you hope to learn from this experience?

Second, I’d like you to reflect on who you are, your various identities, and the assumptions you bring to this work. What beliefs, values, or ideas about gender, poverty, homelessness, age, race, or any other social issue or identity do you think will inform your experience? What challenges do these issues pose for you? In what ways might they prepare you well for what’s to come?


  1. I'm really excited for the next phase of the course. I love talking to people and hearing their stories so I'm excited to conduct the interviews. I believe that everyone has a story and they should have an opportunity to share their story. I've volunteered at homeless shelters and various resource centers before so I kind of know what to expect but of course every situation is different. I'm usually pretty good at going with the flow and taking situations as they come my way. I plan on being friendly during my interview and understanding. I also need to remember to be empathetic. I hope to gain a greater appreciation for what I have in my life and also to continue to learn how similar we all are no matter what our backgrounds may be. I hope the women I talk to are open to share with me and realized I'm a genuine person.
    I think that as I recognize that I'm a white, middle-upper class, female young adult I know that I'm extremely fortunate. I know that my parents and ancestors in general have worked really hard in order to achieve all that we have. I have never had to go without a meal because we didn't have enough money and never had to worry about where I was going to sleep at night. In order to broaden my experiences I have tried to expose myself to different situations that i'm not accustomed to. I've volunteered at very diverse high schools tutoring students of all abilities, played with homeless children, served at the soup kitchen, donated old clothes to the homeless shelter. I recognize that everyone has been through different trials in their lives and some of us have been more fortunate than others. I do not discriminate against race. I think we are all God's people and all deserve to be loved.

  2. I am not quite sure what the interviewing process will be like. In previous volunteer work I have talked to homeless people in the park, but that was a very open-ended conversation. Interviewing, and trying to get deep or insightful quotes, will be a totally new experience for me. I hope that it is eye-opening and that it helps me to see the women I talk with as human beings with strengths and weaknesses, rather than labeling them as “homeless.”

    I think a few of my identities have prepared me well for working at the Gathering Place. I am female, so that might help the women there to trust me if they have experiences which make them distrustful of men. Christianity is a central aspect of my life, and because of that I believe in being compassionate, loving others as much (or more!) than myself, and accepting people where they are at by treating them with an attitude of grace. I believe that everyone can have hope and a bright future, and I particularly identify with the Bible when it talks about caring for the poor and single mothers and their children. However, a few of my identities will make it hard for me to work at the Gathering Place. My conservative background has emphasized hard work as a pathway to success. I am a very driven, perfectionistic person. I have high personal standards and I am very hard on myself for making even small mistakes, which can make it hard for me to understand how or why others have made certain personal decisions. I can be very quick to analyze the lives of the homeless or very poor and judgmentally look for reasons why they arrived where they did. This tendency may make it hard for me to listen without judgment and to treat the women with as much compassion, respect, grace, and patience as much as I would like to.

  3. I am eagerly anticipating the interview and narrative portion of this course. My opinion is that it will be fascinating and enlightening to gather firsthand accounts of the topics we have been discussing prior to this point. We will be listening to fellow human beings recount their many experiences and sharing their stories in a way that will aid the organization that they utilize – to me, this is an incredibly empowering thought. I am glad that we have the opportunity to speak to the women at the Gathering Place as well as to hear their perspective on the world. While I have not had previous experience at a homeless shelter or other program for homeless individuals, I am approaching this project from the angle that we are all just people. In addition, I do not have much experience interviewing other individuals, so I am trying to frame it in my mind as having a guided conversation with someone in which I gather and transcribe their personal narrative and worldview.

    I am a white female from a middle-class family that has spent the majority of my life interacting with other white individuals, also from middle-class families. To be blunt, I have never been anywhere close to being homeless, but from reading Kozol I do recognize that it can quite literally happen to anyone, as both personal and economic circumstances are often unpredictable. Before taking this course, I had honestly not pondered the issue of homelessness beyond becoming aware of the program Denver’s Road Home and Mayor Hickenlooper’s efforts in favor of homeless individuals. Despite the fact that I cannot currently relate to the individuals who utilize the services of the Gathering Place in terms of circumstance, I am female, and I think this will aid me greatly in understanding the ways in which gender has driven and shaped their experiences, either positively or negatively. I am not naturally a judgmental person in the least and never possessed the stereotype, even before taking this course, that homeless individuals are “lazy” or merely “sit around and take advantage of the system.” I have known many people, especially in high school, who voiced this idea, yet I did not pay attention to it because I knew deeply that it wasn’t true. Despite my not-exactly-diverse background, I have recently begun volunteering at the Bridge Project, which involves tutoring children who live in public housing in order to give them the resources they need that will motivate them to graduate from high school. This has undoubtedly opened my eyes to a more diverse section of our city, and I firmly believe that the experience has helped me greatly, possibly even more so than I can ever help the kids I tutor.

  4. I am both excited and nervous to do my first interview tomorrow. I’m excited because I’ll get the chance to talk to someone with a very interesting story to tell that is probably very different from my own. At DU, I sometimes feel confined because everyone is so similar. This will be a great chance to go out and get to know all different kinds of people. But I’m nervous, because I know these interviews will be emotional. I’ll be hearing about things I’ve never experienced before, and I’ll have to try to connect with the women even though our lives are completely different. I’m worried that I will be awkward and not know the right questions to ask. I really hope that I will be able to make the person I’m interviewing feel comfortable. I hope that the interview seems more like a nice conversation than a formal interview. Coming out of it, I hope that I’ll have a lot of unique and personal stories to use for my paper.
    Being a white college student from a middle class family might make it difficult to relate to the women I talk to. I am fortunate enough that I’ve never had to worry about becoming homeless or not having enough to eat. However, I feel that I have tried to expose myself at least a little bit to the world around me. Reading Kozol’s book and taking this class have opened my eyes to the humanity in homelessness. I’ll never think that a homeless person is “just lazy”, because it can happen to anyone. I do think that being female will help me relate to the women I interview. Even the smallest things can connect people. Perhaps the fact that I am a college student will make it easier for them to open up to me as well. Most college students haven’t decided what to do with their lives yet, so the women might be intrigued by our curiosity. Either way, I think it’ll be a great opportunity to branch out of my comfort zone tomorrow and get to know someone new – because when it comes down to it, we’re all human.

  5. I am unsure what my experience at The Gathering Place is going to be like. I am little worried about ensuring that the experience won’t be too awkward, but I feel like that is going to be really hard to do. I am hoping that the women will be very open to what we are doing but I am still feeling pretty unsure on how they will respond to the questions we’ll be asking. I am really hoping for a very rewarding experience from getting to know these women and their stories. I am looking forward to changing my perspective completely. Even though we have done things like Rachel and Her Children it will still be interesting to hear these types of stories first hand. To actually put a face to the story will be really helpful in allowing me to grasp the full extent of what it means to be homeless. I am really excited to finally get an interview in because I have a feeling that even with the little anxiety I am feeling it will be a very rewarding experience. The assumptions I believe I take into this will come from a very privileged point of view. I can read about people’s stories all the time and rationally understand that people do not choose to be in this position and that homelessness can happen to anybody. There is still the little voice in the back of my head though that if you work a little harder and keep trying to catch that break eventually it will happen. I think that poses the issue of even though I can consciously empathize with these women, subconsciously I am still somewhat judgmental. I am hoping that finally sitting down with these women will help me to conquer that voice of privilege. The other issue I see is being young I feel like it will be easier for the older women to talk to me because it is usually easier to talk to someone who is younger than you. But it will make it harder for me to fully grasp the amount of responsibility they have if they are homeless and have children, etc. If I talk to a younger woman I feel like that will be interesting because by society’s standards I am successful for my age, if someone who is only a few years older than me and in the predicament of being homeless I could see how that make conversation harder due to the differences but similarity in age. Overall I am really excited to meet these women and hopefully get a completely new perspective on homelessness that you cannot get from an article or a book.

  6. I am very much looking forward to my first interview at The Gathering Place. I feel like all of the reading we have done for the class thus farm although has been very informative, has continued to keep homelessness at a certain distance or in an academic realm. I feel like by moving forward into our interviews with the women at The Gathering Place I will begin to gain a new and deeper understating of the lives of homeless women in Denver. One thing that concerns me up the up coming interview, making sure I do not let my nervousness come across as being insincere or not fully engaged. I have very high hopes for what I will gain out of this experience. Most importantly, I hope to become more cognizant and understanding of homelessness in the area that I attend school.

    Due to my identity as feminist I think that I have a unique understanding of how gender might play into the dynamics surrounding these circumstances. I also indentify as a white, college student of middle class background. I am not really sure how these identities will impact my time at The Gathering Place, I think that it is important for me to remember that nothing about me separates me in a significant way from the women that I am going to be interviewing. Under this mindset, I do not glaring problems as far as my identity inside of the gathering place.

  7. I am both excited and nervous to conduct interviews at the Gathering Place this week. While I don't feel anyone could ever feel completely prepared for an experience such as this, I feel that our work, readings, and discussions in class have been very useful to help us further understand the causes and struggles on homelessness and give us a fairer perspective for these interviews. However, I am still nervous about the things we may hear or experience during these interviews, as I expect them to be very moving.
    As a white, middle-class student, like many who have posted before me, I know that there are some aspects to who I am which will make it difficult for someone to open up to me. However, as suggested in class,I plan to emphasize my identity and role as a woman to help. I also am nervous of their opinions of me as a student going to a "rich" university. However, I am interested in hearing their story and genuinely am interested in learning and growing from this experience, and I think that if this is properly communicated that the interview will go well.

  8. Here's Lizzie's comment:

    I am really looking forward to visiting the Gathering Place and interviewing the women who utilize their services. I think that the services that they provide are phenomenal. One concern I have is that the people there will view us as a bunch of rich kids who just have to do a project, rather than people who truly care about them and want to help make a difference. I really want to learn more about these women and the struggles they face, and what helps them to overcome them. I especially want to learn about the mothers, and how they keep their children happy and safe when they face such struggles in their lives. I think that this experience will be an enriching one, and will help us to better understand the homeless people so we can learn ways to make a difference.

    I think that my identity as a woman will help me to relate to these women. While I am not a mother, I can still understand their struggles, because I know the challenges that women can face, even if I have not experienced a great deal of them. I also hope that my being a woman will make these women more apt to trust me. As a middle-upper class white woman however, I worry that they will feel that I am too privileged to understand their struggles. I have not had a lot of experiences with people who are homeless or living in poverty, so I hope that I am able to form an understanding and a bond with these women. However, I do believe that these interviews will be very important in order to help me better understand the struggles that others face.

  9. Like everyone else in the class so far, I too am very excited for the challenges and stories that lie ahead. I think its going to be a real eye-opening experience to actually meet the people who are living the stories that we have been reading and discussing for the last few weeks. I think it is going to be a difficult but welcome to the paradigms that we all hold. I look forward to seeing these women in their day to day lives and having the opportunity to tell their story in a way that may end up helping them down the line. In terms of the actual conversations I really don’t find myself too worried or anxious. Obviously it will be a semi-awkward scenario having a man come into an all women shelter from a private university to ask questions, but I hope all of those things will be overcome. I’ve always been a conversation starter and love to hear and share stories and that will be my intent throughout the interview process.

    In looking at my own identities and ideas that I am bringing into the room I really think that my past has prepared me for something like this. Back in Utah I grew up as an outcast, sometimes by choice and other times by force. While this is obviously different from the alienation that I’m sure some of these women feel, I feel that my own experiences and desires for a safe place will help me to speak to these women from an understanding point of view. Throughout my life I’ve also had to see several disturbing things in terms of family relations, violence, and abandonment. My mother was abused by her father as a child and I feel that the experiences I’ve had talking to her about her life will prepare me to take and deflect the stories that some of these women may have. I know the importance of seeking help and can hopefully direct them in the correct way. I’ve also had several aunts and uncles that have had to deal with government welfare and support, therefore I know the difficulty that these “aid” programs actually entail.

  10. I very anxious about the interview. I consider it more a privilege to be able to listen to these women's narratives and convey them in my own writing. That also brings up some worries. I hope when I write I don't take power and authenticity away from their narratives. When people sit down and red my paper I want them to feel moved like I know I will be once I conduct my interview. I may have not been homeless but I understand from a child perspective what its like for a mother with children to try an survive with little funds. I know the stories might be very emotional and moving but all I really a expecting is honestly and truth whether its to hard to listen to or not.

    Before I identity my self with anything, I first identify myself as a Christian. Growing up in church we're taught its our duty to help others in need. But my only fear with that is I also do not want to be too sympathetic. Not everyone who is homeless got there because bad things have happened to them but they possibly made mistakes. I also think that as a man, the women will be more apprehensive and will not open up to me. However, I think that in order to combat that I will have to be honest with them as well. Possibly telling them my own narrative about growing up with a mother who was single part of my life might make them open up to me.

  11. I am really excited about getting the opportunity to interview women at the gathering place because I think having someone's first hand experience will better resonate with me than a book or article about homelessness. Although I am excited I am also nervous because I feel like at DU we are subjected to the same type of people through our academic careers so I think I might find it difficult at first to find a common ground with women who have lived a different life style than myself. After hearing how Riley, Emma and Michaela's experiences went on Friday my fear and apprehension was somewhat diminished because they all seemed to have had amazing experiences. I am excited to get to hear from the women, the biggest concern I have is that I wont be able to get a good story, or a good amount of information out of the interviews, but that definitely isnt the worst concern to have!

    Where my identity is concerned I think that I identify the most with being a woman and secondly being an intellectual. I didnt grow up in a religious family or a family that struggled to get by so those are two areas that I dont seem to identify with for those exact reasons. I think I identify the most with being a woman because my mom is one of my best friends and she is what I consider a strong woman. I also have two sisters so I have grown up around girls and our specific needs, wants and desires. For this reason I think that my identity is most shaped by my gender, and I love it!

  12. After preforming interviews with the women at the Gathering Place, I expect to have a much better perception of what it means to be homeless and therefore be able to have a more educated view on the readings that we discuss in class. While I am anxious about conducting the interview, I am also excited about the opportunity to diversify my views on what it means to be homeless by engaging in throught-provoking and perhaps emotion-provoking conversation with the women at the Gathering Place. I hope that I am able to communicate a sense of understanding and equality with the women I talk to because one of my main concerns is that these women will stereotype us as students from DU. I fear that they will think that as rich college students we have very little experience with helping others or that our experiences with volunteering and purely superficial (that we only needed something to put on our resume and get into college).

    Currently, the identities the I must exclusively identify with are being a woman, a student and a catholic. Two out of three of these identities will be helpful in relating to and identifying with the woman I speak with. I know that they will all also be woman, and I believe that woman are more comfortable opening up to other woman. Also, in many of our readings the authors have noted that most women (or people in general) that are dealing with homelessness hold on to a strong relationship with God throughout their journey. I can relate with that because when I go through hard times in my life, I like to turn to God for help.

  13. I’m looking at the next part of this course as an exciting challenge with potentially life-changing implications. I chose to take this course because I was excited by thought of being a part of something worthwhile, something different than the typical college writing course. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous going into these interviews, but honestly I am really excited about this opportunity. This format allows us to immediately get to know someone, pushing thru the small talk towards things that actually matter. This is the king of conversation I especially enjoy; conversation centered on self-disclosure, emotions, and special stories. These are the things that matter in life, and I always enjoy listening to people who are willing to open and up share their experiences. I am hoping my passion for genuine conversation will give these women a sense of comfort when they interact with me, so that it is clear to them that I am there to actively listen to whatever they have to say. Finally, what I hope to gain from this experience is simple: I am hoping to meet a few women and learn about their lives, whatever that may look like. It may be heart breaking, it may be hilarious, it may be boring, or it may be inspiring - I’m excited about the endless possibilities. In the end, I hope to have gained a greater sense of empathy for the homeless overall, but I am more excited for smaller senses of wisdom that I’ll gain as these women share their diverse tales.

    My gender is the only part of my identity that I am slightly concerned about. Obviously, as a male entering a women’s shelter, I will be the minority. I know this will play a role in some way, either positive or negative. Probably both. Also, I am white and I am from DU. Everyone will be aware of the privilege spectrum within the room, so I hope that if it does become an issue, we can just openly discuss the reality of the situation and show that we genuinely want to get to know them as people, not as “case studies.” Other than that, I consider myself to be more open minded than most. My core values are simple: as long as you’re kind, I am happy to interact with you and learn from you. I plan on approaching the day with a very positive, kind attitude, which will hopefully foster a very healthy environment for conversation.