Today we’d like to introduce you to Nikki Chinen.
Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I was born and raised in Hawaii, went to Creighton University for my undergrad, and recently graduated from the University of Southern California with my Master’s Degree in Social Work. Now I’m a Mental Health Specialist for a non-profit working with individuals experiencing homelessness. Growing up, I didn’t see myself getting an MSW and working as a clinician. It wasn’t until my junior year in college where I got the opportunity to do mental health research and advocacy in Uganda. While there, I worked with Uganda’s mental health experts to learn more about their culture and the stigma surrounding mental health. Together, we created Uganda’s first mental health hotline and spread awareness about the importance of mental health. Through this experience, I realized that I had a strong passion for mental health advocacy and awareness. This led me to getting my MSW because I can provide therapy on a micro level while advocating on a mezzo and macro level.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
No, it hasn’t. Working in the non-profit sector for people experiencing homelessness in LA is very challenging. The politics surrounding homelessness and the barriers around access to resources make it hard. I, along with many other advocates in the field, work with our clients to help reduce those barriers so that they’re able to get access to the resources they want and need. I love what I do and will continue to work towards reducing barriers and addressing the injustices of our systems.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
As a Mental Health Specialist, I work as a clinician for the St. Joseph Center in their Homeless FSP (Full Service Partnership) program under the Department of Mental Health. In addition to providing mental health services and integrated treatments to clients, I support with documentation and housing services. So far in my career, I am most proud of supporting my clients and “meeting them where they are at”. Seeing them grow and meet their goals have a tremendous impact on me and remind me why I became a clinical social worker.
Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
If you are interested in supporting people experiencing homelessness, please go to the St. Joseph Center website to learn more!
St Joseph Center logo – St Joseph Center