For the first spotlight of 2019, we’re featuring one of Central City Concern's On-Call Administrative volunteers, Christopher Schiel. The on-call volunteer position is one that allows folks who don’t have consistent time available throughout the week the chance to volunteer on an as-needed basis and support various departments throughout CCC.
Christopher has been one of CCC’s most motivated on-call volunteers and has taken on a broad range of tasks throughout the agency. His consistency, reliability, and unflappably positive attitude have been appreciated by many CCC staff. Read on to hear what Christopher has appreciated and learned and how administrative work has enriched his broader understanding of CCC.
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Peter: What is your name and volunteer position?
Christopher: My name is Christopher Schiel and I am an on-call administrative volunteer.
P: How long have you been with CCC?
C: I believe it’s been about a year.
P: How did you become familiar with CCC?
C: I knew about the agency from seeing the vehicles around town, but also being aware that there were residential buildings downtown. And I had a superficial awareness of the organization, but not an understanding of what they did besides housing.
P: How did you find out about the volunteer position here?
C: I was actively seeking some volunteer position within the city and I was feeling like housing was at the front of minds, so CCC was at the top of the list. And I found [a position that] I thought was perfect for my skill set, which was project management and organizational stuff.
P: What about admin work was more attractive to you than a role that involved more direct contact with clients?
C: At the time, I was feeling a motivation to do something without really knowing where to start. The housing crisis is something that is very visible on the streets, but there isn’t much of a conversation about why that is beyond reactions on the news, Nextdoor, or from NIMBY folks who are corralling people around the city from one place to another.
My motivation for volunteering was the kind of acknowledgement that I knew that I didn’t know what was going on, really, so I wanted to get involved in some way, not only to volunteer my skills, but to greater understand or explore what is actually happening and admin seemed like the perfect way to do that.
"I’m understanding that the success of the whole mission revolves around a coordination of these services that isn’t obvious on the ground and certainly wasn’t obvious to me before I started"
P: And do you feel that you have learned more about housing and services within housing during your volunteering?
C: Oh, absolutely, yes. My very first task was to interview one of the heads of OHSU and the CEO of a job transition placement group to get their thoughts on the functioning of CCC, as well as their input on [CCC’s] strategic plan. That particular conversation turned out to be very enlightening about the way that this organization collaborates with other ancillary nonprofits throughout Portland. It started to get me thinking about how each of these missions can be compartmentalized and taken by collaborators to a certain degree of good.
Right after that I was doing survey entry for [satisfaction] surveys that were given to clients in various parts of CCC and just doing data entry, but to observe that feedback loop, to see how clients are coming thought the system, going from Old Town Recovery Center to different residential buildings, hearing what is going right what is going wrong, how all these things are cooperating to make not only this organization better but what the greater mission of tackling houselessness and the housing crisis is has been insightful.
P: Do you feel that the role has given you that chance to see how the different parts of the agency feed the greater mission?
C: Yes. My background of project management and data entry led me to believe that a lot of this volunteer role would be sitting at a computer, and some of it has been. But probably some of the more surprising and enlightening parts of this position have been those things that don’t involve a computer aspect.
By being in front of clients, being in the admin office, and working with Quality Management, I’m starting to get a sense of how intricate client-facing services are. I’m understanding that the success of the whole mission revolves around a coordination of these services that isn’t obvious on the ground and certainly wasn’t obvious to me before I started. The intricacy [of coordinating all these services] is kind of infinite.
"To just see the sense of community within that residential building; to see the cooperation, camaraderie and community; and to engage with clients at the level was personally meaningful."
P: Has there been one project in particular that was the most interesting?
C: I’m going to give you two answers. The most insightful experience was the strategic planning interview project, in that I got to hear specialized input about specific collaborations and projects and then I got to engage in conversation on some very high level stuff. So from an admin perspective that was the most insightful. But the most meaningful was serving Thanksgiving dinner. To just see the sense of community within that residential building; to see the cooperation, camaraderie and community; and to engage with clients at the level was personally meaningful. So it’s nice on the one hand to have the 30,000 foot view of admin, and then the ground-level view of daily life.
P: When you talk with others about this experience that you’ve had, what is it that you share with them?
C: I start with the range of services that are provided. I never knew what those trucks were doing, for one. But also that CCC isn’t just housing, it’s not just these buildings in the downtown core, but also the medical and rehabilitative services, counseling, job transition support, culturally specific programs. I emphasize the breadth of those service to people I speak with. It’s not just a bed to sleep in, it’s a range of support systems that allow people to get on their own two feet and eventually build a life.