National Homelessness Social Work Initiative – Year 2 Updates

The National Center is part way through Year 2 of the National Homelessness Social Work Initiative (the Homelessness Initiative). We’ve had an exciting year so far that included adding new partner schools and launching a regional hub model. We are now a consortium of 19 partner schools of social work across the U.S. Six partners serve as Regional Hub Leaders to advance work in key geographic areas. In the NY/NJ region, collaboration is fostered among seven NY partners and nine liaison schools in NY and NJ. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) continues to be a key partner of the National Center, supporting activities and helping to develop partnerships with other organizations, including the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Supporting the Grand Challenge to End Homelessness
A key aspect of our work is supporting implementation of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare’s Grand Challenge to End Homelessness (GCEH), an effort co-led by faculty from two of our partner schools – Deborah Padgett (NYU) and Ben Henwood (USC). The partnership between the National Center and the GCEH continues to evolve. In July, we formed a workgroup to develop a homelessness research agenda. Workgroup members include representatives from the National Center, the GCEH, and the VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans.

Working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Our work with the VA has also continued to develop since we held initial meetings with them this past winter. We formed a workgroup to explore opportunities for infusing veteran homelessness content into social work education and expand field placements for students with dual interests in homelessness and veterans.

Working with the Council on Social Work Education
CSWE has been a key partner in our work since the initial launch of the Homelessness Initiative. This summer, we began working with CSWE’s Learning Academy to develop a learning series on homelessness to support faculty development and for use in course curriculum. The series, titled “Homelessness in Social Work Curriculum”, will be released this fall.

The learning series is one example of how the National Center and CSWE have joined forces to promote curriculum integration and faculty professional development. We also want to create opportunities for students to gain expertise in skills especially relevant for working with homeless and at-risk clients. We are particularly excited to announce developing efforts to support the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) program.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provide crucial income and insurance for those with health issues and other disabilities. However, applying for these benefits is a complicated process and access is often challenging for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. In fact, the initial SSI/SSDI approval rate for people who are homeless is about 10-15% when the application is submitted without assistance.

SOAR was established to increase access to SSI/SSDI for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The SOAR Technical Assistance (TA) Center, established by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, supports the implementation of state- and local-level SOAR initiatives. The TA Center provides case manager trainings on the SSI/SSDI application process and technical assistance to support states and communities as they develop and implement their SOAR Action Plan.

Developing SOAR Pilot Projects
Social workers can help ensure the success of SOAR, especially in communities with particularly high rates of homelessness. Training social work students to assist clients with the application process will benefit field placement agencies by increasing the number of staff capable of supporting this process.

In an effort to support the goals of SOAR, the National Center held multiple meetings with representatives from SAMHSA’s SOAR TA Center and the Council on Social Work Education. We formed a SOAR workgroup to bring together partner schools interested in developing pilot initiatives at their schools. Below are brief descriptions of activities emerging from this workgroup.

The University of Texas at Austin is testing a SOAR field placement project, an effort led by Cal Streeter (Professor of Social Work) and supported by partnerships with community-based agencies. SOAR has been identified by the local homeless service network as a priority issue. Four MSW students will complete the SOAR certification and be placed in one of two participating homeless service agencies where SOAR will be a focus of the internship. Students will receive ongoing guidance and supervision from the Austin/Travis County SOAR lead. A small stipend will be given to students for each semester in this role. If successful, BSW students will be added in the spring.

Catholic University of America (CUA)
Linda Plitt Donaldson, Associate Professor at the CUA National Catholic School of Social Service, has initiated discussions with the SOAR Coordinator in Washington, DC. In September, she will attend the area’s next SOAR Leadership meeting to brainstorm ways the school can support SOAR efforts, including and beyond creating SOAR field placements dedicated to preparing SOAR applications at various agencies.

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and the University of Southern California (USC)
CSULB is developing an advanced practice elective in their MSW program covering best practices working with clients who are homeless or at-risk for becoming homeless. As part of this course, students will complete the SOAR training and gain experience using the tool. Additionally, the school is collaborating with USC to develop a plan to provide SOAR training to interns from both universities who are placed in agencies serving homeless populations.

As we head into another school year, we expect this momentum to continue. Keep up-to-date with our activities by following us on social media. Additionally, our blog features monthly spotlights on partner activities, including Regional Hub Leader progress.

Like this post?

Check out this one on Regional Hub Leader Hunter College.

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NCEHS Regional Hub Leader: California State University, Long Beach

In Year 2 of the National Homelessness Social Work Initiative, the National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services (NCEHS) selected the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) School of Social Work (SSW) to be one of six Regional Hub Leader Schools.

CSULB is one of two Regional Hub Leaders in California (the other is USC, which will be featured in an upcoming post). The CSULB SSW strives to be student-centered, to engage in collaborative, community-based research, and to provide meaningful service to the community and the profession. They have consistently demonstrated a commitment to homelessness services, including providing several options for field placements in homeless service agencies and now offering a specialized advanced practice elective covering interventions with homeless populations.

Faculty at the SSW are committed to addressing homelessness in their community and nationally. Dr. Nancy Meyer-Adams, Director of the SSW, actively participates in and supports NCEHS activities. Additionally, Dr. Rashida Crutchfield (CSULB) leads an important project on the prevalence of food insecurity and homelessness among students across CSU’s 23 campuses. This ongoing mixed-method study is supported through a grant from the CSU Chancellor’s Office. Dr. Jennifer Maguire, faculty at CSU Humboldt, recently joined as co-principal investigator. This work has gained national media attention, with Rolling Stone quoting Dr. Crutchfield in a piece on homelessness among college students. This past June, a Conference on Student Food and Housing Security convened 180 staff, faculty, administrators, and students from across CSU’s campuses to present current research and practice, develop inter-campus partnerships and workgroups, and increase collaboration. This conference received media coverage in the LA Times and the Long Beach Press Telegram.

As a Regional Hub Leader, CSULB has committed to two main activities. First, they are using Dr. Crutchfield’s innovative study to provide CSU a list of best practices to support system-wide policy for providing programs and services to displaced and food insecure students. Recognizing the importance and timeliness of this work, they are also focused on continuing to disseminate findings and best practice ideas through regional and national conferences.

Second, the SSW continues to build partnerships with homelessness programs in Long Beach and throughout Los Angeles County, Sonoma County, and Ventura County to further expand field placement options for students. Additionally, the school has partnered with other social work programs in the region, including ten CSU schools (Fullerton, Fresno, San Bernardino, Sacramento, San Diego, East Bay, Chico, Northridge, Humboldt, San Marcos, and Monterey Bay), as well as UCLA and Azusa Pacific. The following are examples of activities from these school partners:

CSU Northridge joined CSULB and CSU Chico to work with their Office of Student Affairs and Student Involvement to implement a grant that will have MSW interns assisting students in applying for Cal Fresh assistance.

  • CSU San Marcos is collaborating with their Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS) clinic to increase understanding of the value of hiring a social worker at SHCS to provide students with guidance regarding homeless resources.
  • CSU Monterey Bay, in response to pressing needs in their region for homeless services and a competent homeless service workforce, engaged their county’s Office of Behavioral Health to fund an MSW field placement unit in Salinas’ Chinatown. Geographically isolated and historically marginalized, Salinas’ Chinatown has seen dramatic growth in its homeless population over the past two years. This specialized community-based field experience provides outreach, service coordination, group work, education, and support to residents of this disenfranchised community.
  • At Azusa Pacific, 75 BSW students partner with the Salvation Army in Pasadena, CA each year to help implement “Homeless Connect Day”, an event that brings together a range of services for people experiencing homelessness in one place. Students serve as intake coordinators and help facilitate service connections. Also, this past spring, the school sponsored a mini-conference titled “Faith-Based Solutions: Christians Partnering to Address Poverty and Homelessness”. The conference targeted faith-based providers in the East San Gabriel Valley to improve collaboration, service coordination, and dialogue about more effectively meeting the needs in the area.
  • For the past two years, MSW students at CSU Fullerton have participated in “Box City”, a homelessness awareness and empathy building effort that culminates in a night spent in a cardboard box. The project is linked to a course that involves a prolonged period of preparation, fundraising, and service provision. Over two years, students participating in Box City raised $11,643 in cash, collected $19,167 worth of in-kind donations, and devoted 4,692 hours of service to the homeless.

Like this post?

Check out this one that provides an overview of Dr. Rashida Crutchfield’s study.

Want more info?

Visit our website to learn more about us and our National Homelessness Social Work Initiative.

On social media?

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.