VOA Today: Meet Sarah Little
Program Manager at Unity House
Our core values are compassion, commitment, diversity, integrity and justice. Which one speaks to you most and why?
I think compassion has always been the value that speaks to me the most. You cannot do this work without having compassion. Our clients often come to us in their darkest days—sometimes they have behavior issues, sometimes they have substance use issues, sometimes they have a criminal record that follows them and prevents them from getting help. Our job is to help lift our folks up from the bottom without judgement. It can be really easy to only see a person’s outward behavior and forget the trauma that brought them to where they are now and that’s where compassion comes in—compassion is caring about people and helping them no matter what.
Tell us about your most inspiring moment with a client?
Haley and Craig and their kids were in our shelter for several months in 2018 and 2019. They had many barriers to overcome while working through our program—child custody issues, maintaining sobriety, finding occupations, having children with disabilities, navigating childcare while trying to work, the list goes on and on. They were motivated and successfully worked through the Unity House program until they were able to find stable housing. Haley completed a job training course and landed a good-paying warehouse job shortly after and Craig was promoted to crew boss at his construction job. I ran into Craig at a grocery store a few months after they moved out and he told he the family was doing the best they’ve ever done—they’re stable, healthy, happy, and successful.
Your work is challenging – what motivates you to keep doing this rewarding yet sometimes difficult work?
Seeing clients truly transform and realize their potential. Homelessness can wear you down physically and mentally and folks are often exhausted when they come to us. We work really hard to make sure every client feels supported and has the tools they need to be successful, so when they use those tools and really start hitting their goals I feel so proud of them. The kids in shelter make every single day worth it as well—a few weeks ago, a five year old client ran up to my car as I was leaving for the day and said he had a really important question to ask me. The question was whether or not I like ketchup and mustard. I told him I did and then he said, “okay, BYE MISS SARAH!” and scurried off. It’s those cute little moments that make all the hard days so worth it.
If you could tell a friend one reason that working for Volunteers of America is rewarding and worthwhile, what would it be?
We really are a team at VOA. I know if I need to refer one of my clients to another VOA program, they will be taken care of by folks who care just as much as I do. The reason people work at VOA is to help others, and that is evident at all VOA programs.
What is your favorite hobby?
I spend most of my evenings in the garden. I love to grow my own food and share the extras with friends, family, and coworkers (so don’t be surprised if I try to give you veggies!) I also try to spend as much time camping and hiking as I can—there’s no better way to ground myself than being in nature with my partner and our sweet pitbull Willow.