After a brief shutdown, student service organization No Closed Doors reopened last semester at a new location. But with spring on the horizon, the student-run nonprofit is pursuing new goals.
NCD, an organization that helps Greater New Haven residents apply for jobs and welfare, is working to grow its base of clients and maintain connections with former clients in order to build a robust database about the experiences of those who use the service. NCD Employment Director Katie Watson ’18 said the eventual aim for this database is to log the number and type of jobs and interviews past clients have secured. Analyzing this data, she said, will enable the group to know if the service model needs to be tweaked. But above all, NCD hopes to provide long-term support for those who have benefited from the organization’s help in the past.
“Building relationships is always desirable as it allows us to have a more nuanced understanding of what the client needs and how we can help,” Watson said.
NCD’s clientele is primarily composed of low-income or homeless individuals. The organization helps patrons write resumes and cover letters and locate affordable housing, among other services, NCD Co-Director Iain Barr ’17 said.
Barr said the nonprofit had to temporarily suspend operation in the middle of last semester because the Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, its parent organization, revoked funding for the organization’s office space. Barr explained that YHHAP realized paying rent for NCD’s independent office space was not financially sustainable, given the cost of the other services they provide. NCD now shares office space with New Haven Works, a city-affiliated employment agency on Whitney Avenue.
In the weeks leading up the move, staff members told visiting clients that they would be moving offices, but not all clients were reachable, Watson said, adding that the move resulted in the loss of some clients. That said, Watson noted that her nonprofit has managed to gain some new patrons due to the proximity to New Haven Works. Furthermore, the organization is working to publicize its new location through its website and via word-of-mouth.
“Our volunteers are still adjusting to the New Haven Works office, but we are continually welcoming new clients,” NCD Benefits Director Sedina Dzodzomenyo ’18 said. “We are now able to conveniently serve both our own clients and individuals referred to us by New Haven Works.”
While working to expand and rebuild its client base this semester, the organization is also undertaking efforts to improve outreach. According to Barr, volunteers have redesigned their website to provide both clients and volunteers with more information about NCD’s services. In fact, clients can now book appointments online even when the NCD office is closed.
Watson said she is working personally to consolidate client data into an organized database and is prioritizing connecting with new potential clients while staying in touch with past ones. She added that this can be difficult, as some NCD clients do not have reliable access to means of communication.
“This semester, we’ve been more diligent about inputting phone numbers for clients that work with us,” Watson said. “Many clients do not have a consistent phone number or address, so we’ve been brainstorming about how we can maintain contact despite these limitations.”
NCD is also working on internal improvements, such as broadening the volunteer-recruitment process and planning social events to foster a stronger sense of community among current volunteers, Barr said.
He expressed his hope that the organization’s enhanced emphasis on accessibility will make NCD a more effective and fulfilling experience for both clients and volunteers.
“I think that NCD is one of the best ways to leave the Yale bubble and a good way for students to use their researching and resume-writing skills to help New Haven residents,” former NCD Co-Director and current volunteer Grace Lee ’16 said. “The personal relationships I’ve formed with our clients have meant a lot to me and have kept me grounded during my time at Yale.”