This course requires an internship with a local social service agency that helps homeless &/or hungry people. I have required this internship for two reasons:

  • First, I want you to encounter people in the situations that we are studying, and to do so in a safe and useful manner. Working with agencies attains this end.
  • Second, I want you to observe a social service agency first-hand. I want you to understand something of the agency’s mission and its structure. I also want you so understand something about how agency staff view homelessness/hunger as social problems. And I want you to learn why they have chosen to do the particular work that they do.

Your learning will therefore have two foci:

  • First, you will observe the organization’s clients, interacting with them as much as possible in order to learn what life is like for them.
  • Second, you will observe the organization itself, in order to get a sense of its mission and values, its interpretation of the problems of poverty, and of how effective it is at the work that it seeks to do.


The key elements of this assignment are (due dates are listed on the Schedule page):

(turn in all of these assignments on Moodle)

  •  Turn in a list of your top 5 choices for internships.  Consult this list of local agencies to get ideas, or propose agencies with which you are already familiar.  Once I have seen everyone’s requests, I shall let you know which agency or agencies you can pursue.
    • This is to make sure that no more than 2 students work at any one agency.  If you skip this step, your internship project does not count.
    • Please notify me of any errors on this list, so I can correct them.
  • As soon as possible, begin volunteering / observing at your internship site.
    • Based on this experience, turn in a short (2-3 page) report of what you expect to see and learn at this agency.  This is the Preliminary Internship Report, due on the date listed on the Course Schedule.
  • In all, spend at least 20 hours volunteering/observing at the agency.  Keep a log of your time there and of your observations.  (You may wish to model this on the “On Fieldnotes” handout, found elsewhere on this site.)

You will make two reports to the class:

Do NOT post about your organization on the Course Blog, unless you check with me first!  This is for two reasons:

  1. Your post is a public document.  In our age, such documents have to be crafted very carefully to avoid being misconstrued or distorted and can cause harm. 
  2. Your post could potentially harm people who have given you information by violating their privacy, threatening their job status, or threatening the aid organizations give them.
  • If I do let you post about your organization, I shall ask you to do use a pseudonym (e.g.: “an unnamed religiously oriented homeless ministry” or “a small, not-very-well organized non-profit”).  Your post should be fair and polite, focusing on what you observed and what you learned.  Avoid both puff pieces and antagonistic criticism.

Possible Sites:

Click HERE for a downloadable list of local agencies suitable as internship sites (as a 235kb PDF file).   There are certainly others.  The list should, however, give you some leads as you seek a position.  Please inform me of any needed corrections.

Some of these agencies have websites, not all of which are actively maintained.  Here are a few links (in rough order of distance from the Redlands campus):

A Few Parameters (I’ll add to these as I think of more):

  • No more than 2 people may volunteer at the same site.  NO ONE MAY COUNT ON VOLUNTEERING AT A SITE WITHOUT MY APPROVAL!!!
  • Sign up early.  Some of the agencies require background checks.
  • Make sure that the site personnel know that you are both volunteering and observing.  They should know that you want to learn how the agency is run, while simultaneously helping with their work, and they should agree to cooperate with this.
  • Make sure to protect the privacy of anyone you interview.  Use initials, code names, etc., even in your research notes.
  • Keep your commitments.  If you agree to work on a particular day, do so.  Don’t leave folks hanging; it reflects badly on you and also on the University.