Student gains skills while helping the homeless

PHOTO: Senior Silas Kirsch volunteers once or twice a week at the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter. One of his many jobs is checking out sleeping bags for shelter guests.

By Talullah Manghise, Staff–

For the Kirsch family, involvement with the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter, an organization that provides shelter and hospitality to the homeless community of Davis, has become somewhat of a family tradition.

Senior Silas Kirsch has a family full of connections with the IRWS. His grandmother was on the original IRWS board and his older sister was a volunteer for the organization for years.

“Seeing how working at the shelter touched them personally and how it meaningful it was to them inspired me. I was eager to follow in their footsteps,” Kirsch said.

Kirsch has spent much of his free time over the course of the past six years volunteering for the shelter as part of an internship program and has spent the last year as a board member.

At the shelter, Kirsch and his fellow interns assist shelter guests as they check in, coordinate sleeping arrangements and prepare meals for the night’s guests.

Kirsch’s favorite part of assisting the homeless community is getting to hear the stories of the guests and forming bonds with those who frequent the shelter.

“So many of them have had these incredible life experiences that they’re keen on sharing and they don’t get to share with people that often,” Kirsch said. “I benefit from hearing incredible stories and gaining new perspectives and reaffirming that there’s someone here to listen to them.”

Not only has Kirsch developed new relationships from volunteering at the shelter, but he’s gained better communication skills as well.

“I just feel more confident when I’m approaching someone and talking to them for the first time. I feel like I can listen better and connect with people easier because of the experiences that I’ve had at the shelter and the training that I’ve had with the intern group,” Kirsch said.

In addition to volunteering for the IRWS, Kirsch has spent the past few months shadowing Ryan Collins, homeless outreach coordinator for the city of Davis.

“He is really compassionate and serves as an inspiration for how to do good and be effective,” Kirsch said. “Working with Ryan has opened up my mind and given me a new perspective of how civil service is absolutely an option.”

After he graduates from DHS this June, Kirsch hopes to attend a four-year college. Though he is unsure of what he’ll study in college, he wishes to continue working with the homeless community regardless of where he ends up.

“I know that whatever I want to be doing, I want to be working for a cause greater than myself and I want to be working on behalf of other people and for the benefit of other people,” Kirsch said.

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