Meet Our Interns: Riley Keenan

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is fortunate to have great interns every semester and summer. Our summer interns have been sharing their experiences at the Coalition with you over the last few weeks. This is the last of their posts before our fall interns begin. Think interning with the Coalition might be for you? Learn more here! We’re still accepting applications for both communications and research interns.

I began my research internship with the National Low Income Housing Coalition with a somewhat

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Riley Keenan with fellow summer interns Marcus Mello, Becca Larew and Chelsea Dalziel

daunting task: calculating the number of housing units available to low income households in each county in each state in the United States. Although not all of my responsibilities were this complex, I think this example illustrates an important point about the research internship at NLIHC. The research department is the engine room of a data-driven advocacy machine, and as a result, there are times when research interns will feel like they are drowning in numbers. One of the most valuable aspects of the internship, however, is the opportunity to discover the many ways in which those numbers can directly impact the success of NLIHC’s advocacy mission.

Rights issues for low income individuals have been important to me since my first foray into the professional world in 2010. That summer, I interned with Reston Interfaith, an outstanding organization that runs a homeless shelter, food bank and subsidized childcare center in my hometown of Reston, VA. This experience encouraged me to get more involved with low income rights issues when I returned to school at the University of Virginia in the fall. I began volunteering with the Legal Aid Justice Center, a clinic that provides subsidized legal services to low income individuals in the Charlottesville area. When it finally came time to look for work after graduation, these experiences led me to consider opportunities in low income rights advocacy, and this position at NLIHC stood out to me as an excellent fit.

My degree from UVA is in American Studies and History, so my coworkers are often surprised to learn that data analysis is a type of work that I very much enjoy. My quantitative skills came in handy this summer with a variety of projects, including the Congressional District Housing Profiles and data analyses for our state-level partner organizations. I also found that the writing skills I developed in college were useful in my internship, as I was tasked with drafting articles on new housing research for our membership newsletter, Memo to Members. On the other hand, many of the tasks I encountered at NLIHC were new and challenged me to grow as a professional. For example, as part of a research project on state-funded rental assistance programs, I was asked to reach out via email and phone to government officials and to director-level staff at our state partner organizations. This helped me to expand my professional communication and interpersonal skills.

I chose to intern with the National Low Income Housing Coalition this summer for a simple reason: affordable housing issues affect everybody. If you are committed to working for change, are looking to gain experience with a mission-driven team and don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty in Excel, then I highly recommend this internship experience to you.

Meet Our Interns: Thaddaeus Elliott

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is fortunate to have great interns every semester and summer. Over the next several weeks, each of our summer interns will share their experiences at the Coalition with you. Think interning with the Coalition might be for you? Learn more here!

My name is Thaddaeus Elliott and I will be a senior this year at Northwestern University majoring in social policy. I served this summer at NLIHC as the policy intern.

My interest in affordable housing was really sparked by attending Northwestern and living in Chicago for the last three years. Through my coursework, my role as the chair of a social justice group on campus, and just my day-to-day experiences walking the streets of Chicago and talking to residents, I have learned that where we live has a tremendous influence over our life outcomes, especially for those with the lowest incomes.

So when it came time to begin the process of searching for a practicum site, I sought out nonprofit advocacy organizations focusing on housing policy. I found NLIHC on and thought the policy intern position would be a perfect fit. I sent in my resume and cover letter right away, and, well, here I am.

As the policy intern, I’ve had a wide range of different experiences that have allowed me to gain a lot of practical knowledge and experience in not just housing policy, but in the legislative process in general. The opportunities I have had to go to Capitol Hill and attend hearings, bill markups and meet with Congressional staffers have shown me all the work that goes into making policy and how many people and interests are really involved in the legislative process.

The most challenging aspect of the internship has been getting a grasp of the ins and outs of housing policy. There are so many programs and regulations that are a bit convoluted, so it is hard to keep them all straight at times. Luckily every intern is provided with a current copy of the Advocates’ Guide, which is an amazing resource to fall back on. I’ve also found that you can always ask a question and have it answered.

For anyone interested in interning at NLIHC: do it! The staff here is truly great and cares about you getting the most out of your time here. Also, take advantage of as many opportunities to get out with the staff to go to conferences, hearings, rallies, lunches, coalition meetings, receptions, Hill visits, what have you. It really adds variety to your weeks and allows you to get your face and name out there while also meeting other people passionate about the issues you care about.

My time here at NLIHC has made me firmly committed to advocating for those with the lowest incomes not only in matters of housing but in any area where class plays a role in access to opportunity. Though I am sad to be leaving, I will take these experiences and seek out avenues to continue working on these issues back at school and wherever I may end up come spring.

Meet Our Interns: Becca Larew

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is fortunate to have great interns every semester and summer. Over the next several weeks, each of our summer interns will share their experiences at the Coalition with you. Think interning with the Coalition might be for you? Learn more here!

Like many soon-to-be graduates, the months before my college graduation were filled with trying to figure out what to do next.  Most of my classmates decided to go straight to graduate school, but I wanted to learn more about life outside of the university setting first.  As part of my social work degree, I completed a practicum with United Action for Youth in Iowa City, an agency that works with pregnant or parenting teens and homeless youth. During my time there, I gained an insider’s perspective on different social programs, especially Section 8 housing, where many of our youth and their families lived. By working with them, I learned about the stigma attached to using housing vouchers in Iowa City and the complications renters faced because of landlords refusing to accept their vouchers.

When researching internship opportunities, I was looking for ways to gain experience in macro-level social work and advocacy. I also wanted the opportunity to move away from Iowa and go outside my comfort zone. When I came across NLIHC’s internship description on, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to learn about advocating for socially just policies and to organize people around housing issues. After talking with Outreach Associate Mary Kolar about the outreach position and how involved interns are in the everyday activities of NLIHC, I was excited for my big move and to start working.

As one of two outreach interns, I was able to learn about NLIHC’s membership and why members are so important. Joining NLIHC is like becoming a member in an active community that works together to make life better for people struggling with different housing issues. Members have the opportunity to stay informed and take action on different policies that affect either themselves personally or someone they know. While interning I was able to talk to members either on the phone or when attending conferences and learned how becoming a member of NLIHC impacted them. Also I was able to do several other projects while interning including analyzing membership demographics, directly assisting people with housing problems and verifying member’s congressional districts.

As my internship with NLIHC comes to a close, I am again faced with answering the question, “what’s next?” After a brief trip back to Iowa to see friends and family and a backpacking trip through Central America, I will be returning to the East Coast to work as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Crittenton Services of Greater Washington. I know I will use my experience and newly acquired skill set that I gained from NLIHC in all my future endeavors. My advice to prospective interns would be to apply for any internship NLIHC offers because you will gain a wealth of knowledge of different housing issues and be welcomed and appreciated by the staff.

Meet Our Interns: Chelsea Dalziel

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is fortunate to have great interns every semester and summer. Over the next several weeks, each of our summer interns will share their experiences at the Coalition with you. Think interning with the Coalition might be for you? Learn more here!

For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about public interest and social justice issues. This passion led me to become an active volunteer throughout my high school and undergraduate career, as well as to my decision to attend law school, where my desire to serve the public interest is reinforced on a daily basis.

As an active member in Charlotte Law’s Pro Bono Program, I have had multiple opportunities to assist vulnerable and underrepresented populations in my community. Being part of this program has led me to develop a desire to serve the underserved on the larger scale through research and policy work. So I was immediately interested in applying for an internship position with the National Low Income Housing Coalition as soon as I learned of the opportunity.

At NLIHC, I am currently one of two research interns. I am extremely fortunate to hold such a position, because it allows me develop a diverse skill set that would be hard to obtain elsewhere. My responsibilities as a research intern vary greatly, including writing articles for NLIHC’s weekly newsletter, Memo to Members; researching low income housing trends and programs in place to assist low income individuals; and updating state housing profiles. I have also had a few opportunities to attend congressional hearings to help show the organization’s support or opposition to certain legislation.

While it can be challenging being a new intern, it is a challenge that should be met head on. The staff at NLIHC is friendly, supportive and very appreciative of all of their interns. They understand that new interns might not be savvy to the inner workings of the organization, or to all of the prevalent issues NLIHC was established to address. They are happy to answer as many questions as you may have, as well as expose you to as much as they possibly can.

Although my internship position has not yet ended, it has already produced multiple benefits for my future. For example, holding such a position has helped me secure an advocacy intern position with the Charlotte Housing Authority that I will begin in the fall. It has also played a part in my acceptance onto the editorial board of a new law journal that focuses on civil and social justice issues, where I plan on utilizing the knowledge I have gained from NLIHC to develop and publish an article focused on low income housing issues.

If you are a public interest-minded individual seeking a diverse and rewarding experience in the heart of D.C., and interested in assisting a distinguished nonprofit organization with their mission, I would highly recommend an internship with NLIHC.

Meet Our Interns: Michael Sarna

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is fortunate to have great interns every semester and summer. Over the next several weeks, each of our summer interns will share their experiences at the Coalition with you. Think interning with the Coalition might be for you? Learn more here!

Coming off of a semester I was less then satisfied with this past spring and having burned out on the camp counselor game, I knew that I wanted to take on a new type of challenge that would help push me in the right direction for the remainder of my college experience. I began to research a program that I had heard about during a youth group trip to Washington, D.C. in high school, known as Machon Kaplan.

In association with The Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Machon Kaplan is a unique program that brings together Jewish, social justice-oriented college students to the nation’s capital, provides with them an internship in a local organization whose focus is on public policy, and also offers two distinct upper-division level courses to be taken for credit. Having fallen in love with D.C. during prior visits and having a passion for social justice, the decision to apply was not that difficult. After a lengthy application process, I was one of twenty participants chosen to join the Machon Kaplan Summer Internship Program this year.

Homelessness is an issue that has resonated with me since my first trips to Washington, D.C., and something that I wanted to be able to stand against. I was soon thrown into a list of names to be interviewed at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. After some frantic research about the organization and a couple of phone interviews, I was selected as the Administrative Operations Intern for my six-week stay in this city.

Never having worked in an office before, I was more than nervous coming in on my first day. Every movie and TV show that I had ever watched made being an intern seem worse than the lowest depths of hell, and coming in that first day was something I will never forget. As I was escorted up to the sixth floor—where I had my own cubicle, computer, phone and business cards— I soon realized that I wasn’t at summer camp anymore. However, as soon as I sat down with my supervisor, most all of my fears and worries disappeared.

Exploring what my main role would be during the summer, I started to realize that as opposed to falling asleep through 9 AM calculus class, I was actually going to be learning and absorbing the day-to-day workings of a nonprofit organization. I felt like I was a part of a greater whole, that I was making an impact, and that I had a hand in moving the organization forward.

I really had the opportunity to explore the different aspects of the day-to-day happenings of a nonprofit organization, as well as work with most of the different departments and teams on staff. From being part of the Thursday morning staff meetings to seeing what it takes financially to run an organization, to helping create a manual for all the NLIHC’s partner organizations, to going out to happy hour with the staff, I got to do it all.

Every day I worked with the NLIHC brought me some sort of new challenge and pushed me to think critically in a way that I hadn’t the previous semester. For the first time, I felt like I was doing something substantial on a large-scale level; that although I once felt like I couldn’t do something to legitimately stand up for what I believed in, this summer showed me that I can.

What this summer really comes down to for me is the fact that I can be a part of something bigger that can truly impact the lives of people throughout the nation and that every role can be an instrumental one.