Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Volunteer Spotlight: Sam Davidson

Since 2009, Tenants Together’s Tenant Rights Hotline has served nearly 8,000 tenants all across California. What started as a project to provide information and assistance for renters living in foreclosed homes has evolved into a resource for tenants dealing with a variety of issues, and that’s thanks to the efforts of our volunteer counselors.

Meet Sam Davidson, one of our volunteer counselors who hails from Maryland. Looking to leave the East Coast and explore the west, he decided to give California a shot in 2006. He’s been a hotline counselor for close to three years now, putting in long hours to become immersed in tenants issues and training new counselors so that our volunteer program can continue to grow.

As a student of sociology, Sam’s interests have always geared towards promoting progressive issues and helping others. Before he moved to San Francisco, he volunteered at a school in India and an orphanage in Nepal. He’s also worked with ACORN as a community organizer, dealing with public housing issues. When he’s not at Tenant’s Together, he does fundraising work for the California League of Conservation Voters.

While looking for a new job in San Francisco, Sam knew that he wanted to get involved in a cause by volunteering, but he wasn’t interested in run-of-the-mill busy work: “A lot of volunteer activity involves stuffing envelopes. That wasn’t the kind of work I wanted to be doing.”  That’s how he ended up responding to Tenants Together’s call for hotline volunteers.

Sam says the best part of being a hotline counselor is “Feeling like I make a difference in people’s lives. The people here are all really cool.” He also enjoys helping tenants realize that they’re not powerless when it comes to facing abusive landlords and unfair evictions.

What does it take to be a great hotline counselor? According to Sam, it’s important to be passionate and knowledgeable about the cause you’re championing, but most importantly, it’s essential to be sympathetic. For many tenants, Sam may be the first and only person that really listens and takes their problem seriously. “It’s nice to be the one who people turn to,” Sam adds.

There are lots of issues facing tenants in California, but Sam points out that one of the biggest problems is that landlords usually hold the upper hand when it comes knowledge about laws in California. They depend on tenants to stay in the dark about their own rights, or to be too scared to confront them even when they know they’ve got the law on their side. Sam says, “Landlords do this professionally whereas tenants don’t. There’s an imbalance built into the system.” Luckily, volunteers like Sam help to fill that knowledge gap every day and keep landlords accountable.

For anyone who’s looking to get involved with volunteering, Sam says it’s all about connecting with others. “Finding like minded people actually gives you the ability to do things,” he says,  “Find a way and do it. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but we all have the responsibility to make the world a better place.”

No comments:

Post a Comment