Jenn (second to the right) with Ella Baker housemates
Jenn Tapler, an LVC17 Volunteer originally from Maryland, is serving this year in the Bay Area with Rental Assistance Disbursement Component (RADCo) at Eviction Defense Collaborative. The primary focus of the Eviction Defense Collaborative’s work is to prevent homelessness by keeping current tenants housed, while RADCo specifically grants loans to tenants who owe rent.
Jenn’s role at EDC is serving as a Rental Assistance Coordinator – she “screen[s] clients who come into our drop-in clinic and collect the documents we need to see if they are approved for our services. I also manage the loan repayment system and sometimes run the main lobby with someone from the legal department. Along with this on Wednesdays I go to court to see if anyone toward the end of the eviction process can use our services, and give them the information they need.
Social justice is one of LVC’s core spiritual practices that Volunteers maintain both at work and at home. For Jenn, it has been one of the most significant parts of her year so far. Jenn shared, “From the very first night we were in our home, our house was talking about different protests and rallies to attend. Along with that, my work is very heavily focused on social justice and fighting for tenant rights. It’s evident in everything I do throughout my week. Our steam as a house kind of fizzled out in terms of protests/rallies, but I would like to look more into it and incorporate those things back into our daily lives. Just the other night for community night we watched 13th, a Netflix documentary, and talked about the social issues surrounding that as well.”
Jenn also shared that while she is passionate about challenging social justice issues like racism, sexism, and gun laws, since working with EDC, she has become more invested in housing and economic justice. Her service at EDC over time has broadened her perspective of social justice work – it has helped open her eyes to the tangible realities of social justice work and how it impacts the lives of others.
“I always knew that housing rights were an issue but I didn’t know how important it was until I was actually placed in this work,” Jenn wrote, “I literally spend my days talking with landlords and trying to convince them to keep tenants in their buildings. In some cases it feels very life or death, because if tenants get evicted then they end up on the street and could be in very dangerous situations. It’s important work that I never realized was this important. We literally keep people in their homes, and that’s amazing.”
A volunteer year is never easy – whether that be emotionally challenging work at your placement or challenges within your house community – but from every challenge comes growth and new perspective. Some of these challenges in Volunteers’ home communities revolve around differences in what each housemate hopes to get out of the year. Jenn said, “A lot of people in our community have the ‘intentional community’ aspect of LVC as their most important [spiritual practice]… I’ve been trying to focus on my own spirituality and self-growth a lot as well, and sometimes it can be hard when people want different things or put their time and effort into stuff that doesn’t always line up. As a community, we’ve struggled and learned from one another, so it’s gotten better, but as an introvert who doesn’t really like expressing how she feels unless she has to, that was a bit of a challenge.”
In some ways, the challenges of the year also serve as reminders of how important we are to others, and how important they are to us in return. When asked about where she has found joy this year, she wrote, “Joy is absolutely everywhere. I’m from the east coast so seeing the Pacific ocean (and even thinking about seeing the Pacific ocean) has me grinning like crazy. My housemates are pretty spontaneous and fun. There is so much love and support from my co-workers that I know even if I make a mistake that someone is there to carry me. Our home feels like a home to me, and that’s something spectacular.”
She’s also found some joy in a new challenge of the year – “Before this year, I was the pickiest eater. It’s insane. You can ask any of my housemates. Upon entering this year, one of my main goals was to try as much food as possible because my pickiness is something that’s been weighing me down forever. I’m 22 and I was afraid of salad! I’ve been lucky enough to have great cooks for housemates who don’t mock me (too much) about my eating habits and have instead encouraged me along my journey. But seriously. There’s so much food out there that I’ve been afraid of that actually tastes so great. Thanks LVC for opening my taste buds!”
Jenn graduated from Towson University with a degree in Family and Human Services. This year, Jenn is living with six other housemates in the Ella Baker House in Oakland. She enjoys reading and writing as well as working on puzzles and listening to podcasts. She likes to collect mugs, having them sent to her from different places of the country, so it’s like she’s drinking coffee with her friends. Jenn’s heart is in Mar Lu Ridge, a Lutheran summer camp in Frederick, Maryland, where she’s learned a lot about herself and her faith. This year, she’s found some refuge in reading books and is currently working on a novel for National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). If you’re interested in following Jenn while she continues her year with LVC, you can check out her blog! http://jenndoeslvc.blogspot.com/ She’s an incredible story teller, and it’ll give your heart all kinds of warm fuzzies.