In Year 2 of the National Homelessness Social Work Initiative, the National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services (NCEHS) selected the University of Texas at Austin (UTA) School of Social Work (SSW) to be one of six Regional Hub Leader Schools.
Key faculty are engaged in homelessness-informed practice. Professor Dede Sparks and Dr. Angela Nonaka are working with a local homeless service provider to develop a sustainable program that includes American Sign Language-certified caseworkers and engaging in research to raise awareness of the deaf homeless population. Dr. Stacey Manser and her research team lead an evaluation project for the Health Community Collaborative. Additionally, Dr. Cal Streeter serves on the Board of Directors for the Ending Community Homelessness (ECHO) Coalition, the Continuum of Care lead agency for Travis County, a relationship that has provided opportunities to develop community-based learning projects for students and to stay informed of HUD policy changes and expectations for service outcomes.
UTA’s work this past year has been impacted by the murder of a student on campus during the spring semester. The person arrested for the murder was a foster care runaway identified in the local media as homeless. In response, a number of vocal parents and alumni looked to the university to do something about the homeless/transient population that hangs-out near the campus. UTA’s President asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to conduct a campus safety audit and asked the School of Social Work to take the lead in working with churches in the area, local non-profits, the University, the University police, and the Austin Police Department to develop strategies to appropriately address the needs of the homeless near the campus.
For several years faculty and students from the School of Social Work have participate in the annual HUD Point-in-Time Count for Austin/Travis County. This year the school is leading an effort to expand participation by students and faculty in the larger university, with the goal of helping to educate the greater university about the issue of homelessness and broaden the base of volunteers participating in the count.
In addition to leading these collaborative effort to address homelessness in the campus area and community, UTA maintains both graduate and undergraduate internship with thirteen agencies in Austin that specifically serve the homeless. This year it has developed new homelessness-related field placements for MSW students. The following is a brief summary of each.
- SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Pilot Project: This fall, the school launched three new field placements designed to prepare MSW students to complete SOAR applications in an effort to increase access to disability income benefits for adults experiencing homelessness. In collaboration with Austin/Travis County Integral Care and Travis County Health and Human Services, the field placement calls for students to complete the SOAR training and certification and then work with agency staff to prepare applications.
- Continuum of Care (CoC) Support: In the spring, the school is planning a new internship with ECHO to support CoC work in Travis County. Students will work on projects such as preparation of the CoC grant application, data analysis and reporting, roll-out of a new pay-for-success initiative focused on permanent supportive housing, coordinated assessment, and lobbying efforts at the local and state level.
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