People of Housing Security:
Indiana University student has dedicated her studies to enriching the lives of people.
Balancing extracurricular activities and academics as a college student can be hard. For Indiana University senior Ava Spielman, she manages this challenge all while working as a crisis case worker at Beacon’s Shalom Center.
“It’s been a challenge balancing school and work, but when you are doing what you love, it makes it easier,” Ava said.
Ava first got involved with Beacon as a freshman when she was required to volunteer at an agency as part of a service-learning class. During her volunteer work, Ava saw a man, suffering from a substance abuse disorder, stab himself. This moment defined Ava’s career goals: to devote her social work degree to helping people who are experiencing vulnerabilities such as homelessness, substance abuse disorders, and mental health disorders. Since then, her passion has deepened.
As a crisis caseworker, Ava works only with clients who are experiencing homelessness. Her day includes first going to class from about 8 to 10 a.m. Then, she works at Beacon’s Shalom Center until about 4:30 p.m. When at Beacon, Ava does Housing First casework, attends meetings, works with clients, and helps with various support groups at the Center.
While Ava’s day-to-day routine is anything but typical, she loves that her position allows her to act as a liaison between clients and resources. Since being at Beacon, Ava has housed 37 clients! Ava told us that she keeps a list of every client she has housed. On this list she has written down her favorite memories with each client. On hard days, she revisits this list because it reminds her of her reasons to keep going. She aspires to house 50 clients before she graduates from Indiana University in May 2023
In addition to working with clients who are experiencing homelessness. Ava has also partnered with Rapid Rehousing Director, Diana Ogrodowski, to create a transitioning to housing support group for clients. The support group meets on Mondays at Shalom Community Center from 3-4 p.m. Ava and Diana formed this initiative to help mitigate some of the challenges that arise when a client has recently moved into their home.
“It’s been a challenge balancing school and work, but when you are doing what you love, It makes it easier”
By working at Beacon, Ava has realized that many of the issues plaguing those experiencing homelessness can only be addressed through systematic and substantial policy change. Through this realization, she has been inspired to take her education further and obtain a master’s degree in Social Work. With this, Ava hopes to work in a position where she can shape and create policies that allow for more equitable housing opportunities for those facing housing insecurity. Ava informed us with a heavy heart that she will be leaving Beacon at the end of April to pursue her master’s degree.
Besides working and going to school, Ava also enjoys getting to spend time with her family, friends, and her horse Teddy. As an out-of-state student from New York, Ava really enjoys when she can spend time with her parents and her two older brothers. Ava is even able to relate and have conversations about her work with her mom, who also works in the field of social services.
Through Ava’s work at Beacon’s Shalom Center, she has fostered relationships with her clients and is passionate about advocating for their rights and opportunities. However, the way that they are sometimes treated by others can be upsetting and frustrating to her.
“If people would just treat them (people experiencing housing insecurity) like humans, the world would be a better place,” Ava said.
Above all else, Ava’s passion for what she does is evident. Through her relentless efforts to find solutions for her clients, to spending her days off at Beacon, Ava has undoubtedly made impactful and beneficial changes in the field of housing security.
About the People of Housing Security: This series highlights the work of those committed to improving the lives of residents in South Central Indiana. Find all the articles in this series here.