Sebastian Coronel Interns With the University Neighborhood Housing Program

by Sebastian Coronel

So what exactly do you do in your internship at the UNHP? This question has been asked many times in
job interviews, in exchanges at family gatherings, and in other social settings with peers and faculty
alike. While over time I have been able to articulate my daily tasks and accomplishments, there are
some other experiences I have while working at the UNHP that I wish to share as well.

Professionally speaking, the University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP) spoke to me because its
mission statement of providing affordable housing and resources to Bronxites (as Bronx residents
oftentimes refer to themselves!) has given me a greater understanding of the local community I live in.
Specifically, I have been working on monthly newsletters that connect both English and Spanish-
speaking members of the community to free tax preparers, to learn about their rights as tenants and
property owners, and to help them access quality, affordable housing via New York City’s housing
lottery, Housing Connect 2.0. I have also contacted various housing providers in all of the NYC Boroughs
to learn what housing options UNHP clients can access and I have updated a bilingual resource guide.

However, it has been through volunteering and participating in phone calls with clients where my most
memorable experiences with the UNHP have arisen. I participated in the UNHP hotline where Bronxites
call regarding any questions or concerns they have with housing, accessing public benefits, or learning
more about financial resources that can aid them. In one of those calls, a client told me how a UNHP
volunteer was able to connect her to affordable housing and save her from homelessness in the middle
of the pandemic. I also volunteered in the West Tremont neighborhood of the Bronx, where I was able
to help local community members apply for Housing Connect 2.0 on their mobile phones. As a Spanish-
speaker, I was able to interact with Spanish-speaking immigrants from Mexico and the Dominican
Republic, and learn through these volunteering events about concerns that immigrant communities in
the Bronx face.

Lastly, in my commutes to and from the UNHP office, I have learned more about the local community. I
have talked to and purchased food items from local street vendors, namely Rosario, who is known for
making a Dominican version of cornbread that pairs excellently with Café Bustelo, a coffee brand that I
was introduced to while living in the Bronx and has a long history in the United States. Coworkers and
peers have introduced me to a local, mom-and-pop Vietnamese restaurant that serves affordable, fresh
bánh mì and pho. And it has been through these intangible interactions with local community members
where the UNHP has helped me connect with and understand the Bronx on a level I would never have
experienced otherwise.

So, while my resume is able to capture the quantitative elements of what I do at the UNHP, these are
also a few memorable, qualitative experiences that have made working with the UNHP so memorable.