Joshua Singer spends most of his time in a van, but he’s not on a road trip. He’s currently an Avodah Service Corps Member, serving with the New York City nonprofit, Project Renewal, which provides healthcare and social services to those in need. Joshua spends his days in the back of a medical van which aids individuals who are unhoused or in the shelter system.
Joshua assists with intake of new clients, getting them familiar with Project Renewal’s services and jotting down some basic demographic information before the onboard medical professionals take over. The van stops at six or seven locations around Manhattan, including food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, providing for those who would otherwise lack access to routine medical care. If a client is in need of specialized care, Joshua and the team help coordinate appointments with one of Project Renewal’s physical sites. Project Renewal is unique in that it does not turn people away if they are uninsured, which is typically a significant barrier to securing medical care. Joshua is particularly proud to be a part of a team that helps distribute COVID-19 vaccinations.
“To be able to do something that gives our clients hope and peace of mind in one part of their lives is very rewarding — you’re able to see that relief instantaneously,” he said.
Joshua decided to pursue Avodah’s Service Corps after it was recommended to him by a previous supervisor. He said he was drawn to Avodah’s intentionality in placing Corps Members with organizations: “It wasn’t just congrats, you have a job! It was about taking the time to match people to the best of their ability and interest.”
Coming from an interfaith household, he said he appreciated Avodah’s approach to communal living with pluralistic Jewish values, so he could explore his own Jewish identity.
Prior to joining Avodah’s Service Corps, Joshua spent time in the AmeriCorps, assisting urban schools and educators. Although his current job is a vastly different environment from Joshua’s previous service experience, the main component of his work — and the part he has always enjoyed most about his work — is the one-on-one communication he has with people..
“The personal interactions with clients keep me going. We go to specific locations consistently, and I’ve developed relationships with clients on a personal level. A lot of the personal stories collectively have stuck with me. We will occasionally have a regular client stop coming — oftentimes, us not seeing these people is the best case scenario. It means they don’t need us anymore.”
While Joshua has enjoyed getting to know the clients, hearing their stories can be difficult: “The thing that’s been the most consistent — it’s not as if it’s by choice that they’re on the street. One or two bad things can happen and there are no support systems for them to lean on. If we’re able to help them, at least a very small capacity, it means a lot to me to be able to do that.”
These client interactions have inspired his long-term career goals. He is set to attend American University in the fall, studying for a Master’s in Communication.
“The work I have done has reinforced the need for communications work. Especially with the medical field, when doctors are speaking from a position of authority they may not fully incorporate the needs of a client. Whether you’re making a commercial or trying to do outreach to get people to vote, we need to take the audience’s needs into account and incorporate them into our communications.”