9 Ways Human Services Professionals Help Their Communities
By Will Erstad on 05/01/2018
Pushing paper in a maze of endless, artificially lit cubicles is not how you want to spend your life. You take a look around your community and see bigger problems than meeting next quarter’s budget goals or hitting your efficiency metrics. You know firsthand that there are a lot of people from all walks of life in need of help.
But how can you make a career out of lending a hand? One excellent option is becoming a human services professional.
Whether you’ve had direct contact with human services professionals in the past and want to keep passing that goodwill along, or you’re completely new to the field, there’s a surprising number of ways these people make a difference in their communities.
“You have an opportunity for each day to be totally different—with opportunities to be exposed to different types of people and different ways to help them—and that’s exciting,” says Rikkisha Gilmore-Byrd, department chair of the Rasmussen College Human Services program and 25-year veteran of the field. “With that comes a different story for each person you come into contact with and enhance the life of.”
To help you better understand the numerous possibilities, we asked Gilmore-Byrd to help highlight some concrete examples of how human services professionals make a difference.
9 Unique ways human services professionals benefit their communities
Below are nine examples of the widespread work human services professionals partake in each day on the job. Get a taste of the rewarding experiences you could be a part of by pursuing a career in this field.
1. They fight back against the opioid epidemic
It’s no secret opioid abuse and addiction has skyrocketed in recent years, which has left a lot of victims in its wake. Human services professionals are often found on the front lines, battling this awful epidemic. Many work directly with addicts to help them find rehabilitation facilities or support groups as well as assisting them in developing plans and next steps for recovery.
2. They help the elderly age comfortably
America’s seniors have earned the right to age with dignity. Human services professionals help them accomplish this by working with seniors to enroll them in meal delivery services, coordinating with personal care aides to help with living needs and finding suitable nursing home options for when it becomes unsafe to live on their own.
3. They protect children from dangerous living situations
No one can pick their parents. While it’s easy enough to deal with little things like Dad embarrassing you at the school drop-off, thousands of children are forced to live in much more serious and dangerous situations. Human services professionals help keep these children out of harm’s way and help them find stable living environments by working with foster home agencies and temporary shelters.
4. They help former inmates get back on their feet
The United States has an enormous number of citizens working their way through the justice system—in 2013 the Bureau of Justice Statistics; reported one in every 110 people in the U.S. was incarcerated.1 With that comes thousands of people who are trying to rehabilitate themselves and rejoin society. Human services professionals can play an influential role in getting former inmates back on their feet by connecting them with job training and helping them find suitable housing.
5. They assist the homeless in meeting essential needs
Nobody ever expects to be homeless. But even just a few poorly timed bouts of bad luck can put someone out on the streets and struggling. Human services professionals provide the homeless with help finding housing. They also work to connect them with government services and nonprofit organizations, like local soup kitchens. Steady sources of food and shelter are the foundation for getting back on track to a “normal” life—and the compassionate folks in human services help them build that foundation.
6. They connect kids with positive life influences
Human services professionals often work with nonprofit youth development organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. These organizations, along with other youth-enrichment programs, connect kids with positive role models and educational opportunities. This can make a huge impact on kids who lack strong role models and proper support systems at home.
7. They help when disaster strikes
Natural disasters of all kinds occur every year, and it’s certainly not easy for the people whose lives are turned upside down by them. Navigating agency bureaucracy isn’t always easy in the best of times, let alone when you’re faced with being put out of your home for weeks or even months on end. Human services professionals may work with direct-relief organizations, like the American Red Cross, or as a liaison, who helps guide disaster victims through the paperwork needed to receive support.
8. They get people with mental illnesses the help they need
Mental illness and a lack of care for those afflicted is a major issue in the U.S. A 2014 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that 18 percent of adults—about 43 million people—are living with at least some form of mental illness.2 Of those, approximately 9.8 million are afflicted with serious, debilitating mental illnesses that make it difficult to hold jobs. The impact of a mental illness can vary from person to person, but for people with mental illnesses who are on the margins, identification and proper treatment of their mental health issues can go a long way in providing stability.
Human services assistants often help clients with mental illnesses find resources, treatment options and support groups. They may also help the severely mentally ill by connecting them with group homes or other care settings, which can help give them the structure and stability they need to thrive.
9. They help veterans get on track after their service
The transition to civilian life can be a substantial challenge for military veterans who’ve grown accustomed to the heavily regimented military lifestyle. Couple that with veterans’ potential exposure to traumatic events, and you have a population in need of support.
SAMHSA notes that veterans often deal with additional mental health and substance-abuse issues, as well as see an elevated rate of suicide.2 Human services professionals help returning veterans by working to connect them with veteran-friendly employers. They also help veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues to find organizations that specialize in working to meet their mental health needs.
Are you ready to give back as a human services professional?
Your career doesn’t have to be unfulfilling. And while the serious work of human services professionals might not always be all sunshine and rainbows, the hard work they do has a direct impact on improving the lives of others in their communities. Whether you’re drawn to working with veterans, children, those battling addiction or anyone in between, there’s an opportunity for you to truly make a difference.
If you’re ready to take a big step toward getting involved and helping support others in your community as a human services professional, it’s time to learn more about the education and training you’ll need. Learn more about how a degree can help prepare you for the field in our article, “3 Human Services Careers You Can Launch with an Associate’s Degree.”
1 U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics; Felony Sentences in State Courts, 2006 -; [Information accessed April 11, 2018]; https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fssc06st.pdf.
2 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50).