LMM News

From Crisis to Compassion: Workforce Development’s View from the Frontlines

Like many people, COVID-19 has significantly impacted my day-to-day life. Beyond that, I am grateful to Maria Foschia, Acting CEO & Chief Operating Officer, and the management team for doing everything they can to make us feel more appreciated and mitigating the risks of this health crisis.

As the Adult Educator, most of my days used to be devoted to prep and teaching classes, then grading assignments. Now since our students are gone during the COVID crisis, all WFD faculty and staff have phased into the kitchen to support our provision of food to the homeless shelters. Our output has actually grown during this time as other area providers have shut down. It has definitely refreshed my appreciation for the work that my students put in every day in both the classroom and the kitchen, and for those in my department who are managing the logistics of it all. I’m glad that I’m just a dishwasher! I find washing other people’s dishes to be quite zen; a welcome break from the existential panic that usually sets in for me around 10 AM. Contemplating the coming struggles over global resource allocation and impending ecological collapse is always less intense if I’m focusing on scraping cheese from the bottom of a 10.5-gallon roasting pan!

While I disliked going on-site to serve lunch and dinner at first, LMM has since instituted many changes that made me feel safer and it has now become a fun part of my day. Our Housing & Shelter service area, along with Cuyahoga County and other shelter providers in the city, has orchestrated several hotels to serve as shelter sites in order to reduce the number of clients at any one site. At first, serving food to everyone in this scattered-site system was a huge challenge logistically.

Ian Marks, VP of Workforce Development, has been phenomenal in almost single-handedly bringing order to the chaos that is COVID-19 in a social service environment. He has set the example by taking on his own direct service site and giving himself zero days off. He has inspired us all to dedicate ourselves to doing the best we can for the people we serve while maintaining our own health – both mental and physical. I would like to thank all the volunteers from Guardianship Services and Development & Communications as well for taking the time to pitch in; I am grateful for the days that your many hands make light work, and it has been a pleasure to get to know you better.  Leave it to LMM to have actually given me the opportunity for MORE human connection during this time- from 6 feet and with masks on of course.

Malika Kidd, Director of Workforce Development, and I are still working hard to run classes for our Chopping for Change students who are currently incarcerated at Northeast Reintegration Center. This has turned into literal correspondence courses through the USPS mail at this point – which is presenting its own challenges. Aside from my constant frustration over my inability to actually talk with my students, I hope this societal lockdown has an ultimately positive impact on our attitude towards incarceration; now that we have ALL experienced our movements being limited and our connection to others cut off, perhaps we can re-evaluate our traditional support for those same tactics being used particularly in extended isolation for prisoners. My hope is that everyone now knows firsthand how psychologically damaging true isolation can be; that it is purely punitive and that it should never be imposed on someone in the name of rehabilitation or growth.

All in all, being flexible throughout these many changes has brought WFD together as a team. The historical divide between the kitchen and the classroom has been erased as we all come together to get our people fed. I have gotten to know some of my own team members better through working alongside them, instead of in separate lanes. I have also gotten to know coworkers from other departments better; after SEVEN years of saying hi in the hallways, we finally got the time to actually converse as we worked together to make sure that being homeless does not mean being hungry.


-Elizabeth Stiles, Adult Educator at LMM


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