School Spotlight: University at Buffalo School of Social Work


As part of the National Homelessness Social Work Initiative (funded by the New York Community Trust), the National Center has engaged several schools of social work in New York State and nationally. This blog post highlights how the University at Buffalo’s School of Social Work addresses the issue of homelessness through research and community service activities.

Joyelle Tedeschi with Friends of the Night People restaurant staff
Joyelle Tedeschi with restaurant staff at the Matt Urban Hope Center

For several years, the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Social Work has partnered with Friends of the Night People, an organization that provides daily meals, medical care, clothing, and counseling to low-income individuals, including many who are homeless. Diane Elze, Associate Professor and MSW Program Director, coordinates having volunteers from the school serve dinner at Friends of the Night People once a month. This provides an opportunity for faculty, staff, and students to engage in community service, learn more about homelessness and poverty, and get to know each other outside of the academic environment.

Joyelle Tedeschi talks with client at the Matt Urban Hope Center
Joyelle Tedeschi talks with client at the Matt Urban Hope Center

In 2009, UB alum Joyelle Tedeschi (MSW ‘08) co-founded the Matt Urban Hope Center, a program providing outreach, supportive housing, and other resources for homeless individuals in Buffalo. Two social work professors, Thomas Nochajski and Kelly Patterson, are collaborating with Hope Center staff to conduct a longitudinal qualitative research project on chronically homeless women. Though the research is still in progress, data thus far have yielded important findings on the prevalence of trauma in homeless women’s lives, coping mechanisms that the women use to deal with trauma and stress, and homeless women’s experiences utilizing housing and social services and the barriers they encounter.

Finally, Elizabeth Bowen, Assistant Professor, has begun a new research project with the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, the lead agency for the area’s regional Continuum of Care. The Homeless Alliance noticed an increased rate of homelessness among 18 to 24 year-olds in the region, a pattern that mirrors national trends. Dr. Bowen and the Homeless Alliance are conducting a community-based research project to examine multiple dimensions of homelessness among young adults, including factors that contribute to homelessness and risks associated with unstable housing situations, as well as service needs, preferences, and barriers. Data collection for this qualitative research project will begin this summer, and findings from the study will be shared with local policymakers and service providers.

These activities are excellent examples of how to address homelessness through meaningful university-community partnerships.

Blog Post Author: Amanda Aykanian, Research and Project Lead at the National Center
Special thanks to Betsy Bowen for contributing to the content of this blog post.
Photos courtesy of the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, taken by Dylan Buyskes of Onion Studio, Inc.

Interested in reading more school spotlights? Check out our recent blog post on Hunter College’s Center for the Advancement of Critical Time Intervention.