UAlbany Supports Statewide Coalition for Homeless Youth

In November, the University at Albany’s School of Social Welfare co-hosted the New York Coalition for Homeless Youth’s (CHY) Annual Conference for the fourth year in a row. CHY is a statewide membership network of providers who serve runaway and homeless youth and young adults across New York. This partnership aligns with UAlbany’s goals for the National Homelessness Social Work Initiative and its role as part of the New York-New Jersey Regional Network.

Amanda Aykanian, doctoral candidate and Research and Project Lead for the National Center, works closely with CHY’s executive director, Jamie Powlovich, to plan the event. Cara Duffy, the school’s administrative assistant, supports this effort by managing space, food, and parking logistics.


This year’s conference took place over two days, with the first day at UAlbany and the second at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany. Along with the many CHY member attendees, there were several young people in attendance – most who are members of New York City’s homeless youth advisory council (pictured left, with Jamie Powlovich on the far right). Young people had active roles throughout the event. You can hear the powerful opening remarks from Ja’asriel Bishop here.

The conference theme was, “Resilience and Resistance: Empowering Youth and Improving the Systems that Serve Them”. Workshops and roundtables addressed a wide range of topics, including the following:

  • federal policy updates and strategic recommendations
  • meeting the legal needs of homeless youth
  • Housing First best practices
  • human trafficking
  • outreach strategies
  • working with transgender and non-binary youth
  • using administrative data to measure housing trajectories
  • rural services resources and challenges
  • statewide policy planning


Amanda presented findings from a study she recently conducted in the Capital Region on service and policy considerations when working with homeless youth. This study was  published in Children and Youth Services Review. She also led a roundtable on using youth leadership to end youth homelessness (pictured right).

The event closed with the presentations of the 2017 Margot Hirsch Moxie Award (pictured below), which was given to Michael Berg, executive director of Family of Woodstock.

55ae6fa5-d59e-4d6e-8f27-ad448575914bFor more information on CHY, check out their website and Facebook page.

For more information on youth homelessness, read our recent post about the Voices of Youth Count project.

Blog Post Author: Amanda Aykanian, MA, Research and Project Lead, National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services



University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work Hosts “Evicted” Author, Matthew Desmond

This past May, the Graduate College of Social Work (GCSW) at the University of Houston (UH) chose the book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City as a summer reading experience for all members of the college to read and discuss together at the start of the semester. Meanwhile, GCSW Dean Alan Dettlaff was preparing to launch a new lecture series – Speaking of Social Justice, the Maconda Brown O’Connor Distinguished Lecture. It seemed a natural fit to invite the author of the summer read – Matthew Desmond, professor of sociology at Princeton University – to be the inaugural speaker. Subsequently, Evicted was named the 2017 Pulitzer Prize Winner in General Nonfiction. The Pulitzer Prize Board recognized Desmond’s work as “a deeply researched exposé that showed how mass evictions after the 2008 economic crash were less a consequence than a cause of poverty.”  The GCSW and the university were honored to host Desmond for a lecture, Q&A, and book signing.

A sociologist by training, Desmond shared about the research methodology that became the basis for the book. He and his team conducted the Milwaukee Area Renters Study (MARS) in Milwaukee’s low-income private housing sector. Surveying 1,000 households in person, they achieved an 84% response rate, no small feat considering their instrument consisted of 250 questions. Desmond stressed the importance of “shoe leather” in designing the research study, research questions, and sample recruitment. They learned asking “have you ever been evicted” was artificially suppressing their results – a person with an eviction on their record may answer “no” to that question, because they define eviction differently, such as having one’s things put on the curb.

As homelessness declines nationwide, housing insecurity is rising. Desmond reported one in four Americans spend 70% of their income on rent. Desmond found that, according to court documents, 40 people are evicted every day in Milwaukee. This is on average 1 in 29 households (1 in 14 black households). However, factoring other involuntary moves that go unreported to the courts, the number is closer to 1 in 8. This is an epidemic that pervasively impacts a person’s life. When a person is evicted, they not only lose their home but they may also lose their school, belongings, community, safety, job, and health.

Desmond argues that without access to stable housing, everything else falls apart. Similar to the way the U.S. government has committed to providing economic security for the elderly and food security for the poor, Desmond proposes that we should refocus resources to provide access to housing for all Americans.

Comment from student attendee:

“I felt fortunate to hear Desmond’s presentation. He won the Pulitzer Prize not only for his quality research but his ability to tell a story with statistics. He did an extensive amount of ethnographic research, living for months with people going through evictions and learning from the landlords in both white and black neighborhoods in Milwaukee. His book details heartbreaking and unfair (but also sometimes funny and joyful) moments in the lives of numerous families. Now, he travels the country sharing what he’s learned. And, after everything he’s witnessed, and in the midst of such a divided political climate, he remains optimistic that our nation can rise to the challenge to solve this crisis.”
~ Stephanie Coates (blog post author)

Desmond’s UH presentation was polished and tailored to those in attendance. He knew he was speaking to a room of social workers, and as he concluded his remarks, he issued a call. To bring about change, Desmond recognizes many people will have to be at the table. He said the crisis of eviction and housing insecurity (explore the data for your town) demands coalitions of people invested in our communities’ public and mental health, education, criminal justice, public safety, and spiritual lives must come together. Social workers can be instrumental in answering that call. One resource for information and connection is, which “features links to over 600 organizations working to preserve affordable housing, prevent eviction, and reduce family homelessness, and presents stories from Americans who have faced eviction.”

Comment from student attendee:

“During his UH presentation, when Desmond said the ‘rent eats first’ and ‘home is for ourselves, every other place is for everything else,’ I knew he was not saying these lines as mere words that might elicit interest in his talk. If I had heard him speak before reading Evicted, I honestly would have thought they were quotes to add theatrics. I did not understand what is truly happening in so many cases of eviction. I attributed the cause to the person making what I would call an unknowing decision, thinking of consequences of my own past actions, not a system that creates a cycle, and often a spiral, of despair. Desmond stating eviction may be ‘inevitability not irresponsibility’ is what sticks with me. As he said, people have written the scenario about the poor, but never the why. Through the research captured in Evicted, Desmond uncovered the why.”
~ Stephanie King (blog post author)

Blog Post Authors: University of Houston MSW Students Stephanie Coates and Stephanie King (pictured above with Matthew Desmond)

Sacramento State Tackles Homelessness Locally

The team at California State University, Sacramento, comprised of Drs. Tyler Argüello and Arturo Baiocchi, has been busy over the past year conducting various activities and, now, celebrating some initial accomplishments.

Interprofessional Workshops

The overarching theme of the workshops this year was to “de-center” the conversation on homelessness.  That is to say, we tried to have the audience and the presenters step out of the role of ‘experts’ and re-center our focus and possible responses on the people affected by homelessness and co-occurring issues. The interactive workshops were open to faculty, staff, students, and community partners, and sought to cultivate an ongoing dialogue about issues related to housing insecurity. The workshops were partly interactive as well as included guest presentations on resources and issues related to regional homelessness. The first workshop included a set of activities facilitated by Dr. Argüello designed to encourage students to re-visit their own implicit biases they may have toward individuals experiencing housing insecurity. The activity was followed by a presentation from the CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward, the lead agency in Sacramento working on homelessness issues. Students were introduced to various initiatives being pursued by local non-profits, and the election of a new mayor who has made homelessness a key issue for the city to address.

The second workshop focused on student homelessness on campus. The workshop included activities that encouraged students to consider how the lived experiences of homeless students may differ from their own. The activity was followed by a presentation by Student Affairs that discussed new state legislation and CSUS policies being implemented to protect students experiencing housing insecurity. The new university Case Manager, Danielle Munoz, LMFT, and MSW Intern Virgil Rambeau gave a detailed presentation on how students can qualify and apply for food assistance, emergency housing, and other resources on and off campus.

Both workshops were well attended with a total of 45 participants from social work, nursing, speech  pathology, sociology, and psychology. Baiocchi and Argüello plan on continuing the workshop series with two addition sessions in Fall and Spring of next year.

Sacramento PointinTime Study

In December 2016, Dr. Baiocchi was approached by Sacramento Steps Forward (SSF) for assistance with the biennial Point-In-Time count of homeless individuals for Sacramento County. Drs. Argüello and Baiocchi recruited 75 CSUS students to assist in data collection and data entry.  To assist in the analysis of the data, Dr. Baiocchi invited Dr. Jennifer Price-Wolf (Assistant Professor in Social Work) and Keith Hodson from the Institute for Social Research to the project. The final analysis and report were completed in July 2017. The report was also referenced by the New York Times regarding housing problems in California.

Smart Policing Initiative: County Sheriff Homeless Outreach Team

In September 2016, CSUS won a research project with the Sacramento County Sherriff’s Department and Sacramento Steps Forward (SSF) regarding a new SMART Policing Initiative, an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance and U.S. Department of Justice. Sacramento is one of six sites in the country selected for two years of funding. The project will evaluate a new Homeless Street Outreach collaboration between Sherriff deputies and SSF Street Navigators, looking at access to services in the outskirts of the city, the impacts to the surrounding community, and the possible cultural changes that may occur due to increased collaboration between the Sherriff Deputies and social service providers.

Californians Speak on Social Welfare

In Spring 2016 Drs. Baiocchi, Argüello, and Price-Wolf (along with three other social work faculty at CSUS) secured funding for a multi-year, probability-based survey project called The Californians Speak on Social Welfare (CSSW) Survey. The CSSW project seeks to assess how Californians view various social issues and policies implicated in social work practice. The first and second surveys were developed and implemented in Fall 2016, the first of which concerned perceptions of social work and child welfare reporting and the second concerned stigma related to homelessness and mental health. The third will be conducted in Summer 2017. The data has already been used for MSW students’ thesis projects, and peer-reviewed articles are forthcoming. In an effort to make homelessness a more integral part of the curriculum at CSUS, Dr. Baiocchi offered his thesis students the opportunity to analyze the CSSW survey data as it pertains to homelessness. A total of five MSW students conducted projects that explored the scholarship on the social and cultural stigmas that homeless individuals experience and the effects that these perceptions may have on public policy.

Incorporating SOAR Training into Social Work Education

The National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services is working in partnership with the SAMHSA SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Technical Assistance Center. Three of the National Center’s partner schools launched SOAR initiatives last fall, which were featured in the August issue of CSWE’s Full Circle newsletter and in an accompanying blog post. Following are progress updates from each school.

University of Texas at Austin
ut-ssw-logo2Beginning last August, three MSW students from the University of Texas at Austin were placed in agencies serving the homeless as part of a SOAR internship pilot. The students completed the SOAR Online Course and received certification early in the placement and began working on applications under the supervision of the Travis County SOAR lead. As of March, the students had completed and submitted for review a total of eight applications. Feedback from the agencies has been positive and the school is looking for ways to expand the pilot during the next academic year. One of the students, Josh Kivlovitz, wrote a blog post for the SOAR Voices Blog about his experience with SOAR as an intern at Austin Travis County Integral Care.

Catholic University of America
cua-logo-small2Linda Plitt Donaldson, Associate Professor at the CUA National Catholic School of Social Service, participated in a series of meetings this past fall with SOAR providers and leadership in Washington, D.C. Following that, they asked her to facilitate a strategic planning process to identify priorities for the next year. Linda facilitated this process in February and the following goals emerged: 1) expand SOAR capacity by offering additional online trainings and collaborating with D.C.’s Interagency Council to engage additional agencies; 2) develop a SOAR sustainability plan, including identifying new funding to support implementation; and 3) improve communication with the Social Security Administration and the Department on Disability Services. SOAR leaders may invite CUA to support one or more of these initiatives.

California State University at Long Beach
CSULB developed an advanced practice elective in their MSW program that covers best practices working with clients who are at-risk of or currently experiencing homelessness. As part of the course, students completed the SOAR certification and gained experience using the tool. In the fall of 2016, 13 MSW students completed this certification and will be graduating in May. Additionally, the school is continuing to collaborate with social work programs in Los Angeles County as well as surrounding
counties to develop a plan to provide SOAR training to all interns who are placed in hdr_blk_id2agencies serving homeless or at-
risk of homelessness populations.

These three projects are excellent examples of integrating homelessness content and related skills into social work curriculum. If you’re interested in other ways to do this, check out the on-demand webinar series on homelessness in social work education produced by CSWE in partnership with the National Center.

Other Examples of SOAR Implementation
SOAR has been successfully integrated into the learning curriculum of social work interns at the University of Montana School of Social Work. BSW and MSW students preparing for a field placement in the Missoula County’s Jail Diversion Program take the SOAR Online Course. They then complete SOAR applications as part of their placement in a program at the jail that provides mental health and case management services to individuals experiencing incarceration and severe disabling mental illness. Once approved for Social Security disability benefits, the benefits help to stabilize individuals in the community through housing and other necessary services. Through SOAR implementation, recidivism has dropped and applicants with severe and persistent mental illness are able to be served in their community.

If you’re interested in learning more about how communities are implementing SOAR, check out the SOAR Voices Blog. It features stories of successful and creative implementations of SOAR in communities across the U.S. For example, we enjoyed reading this post on the use of SOAR integrated with supportive housing services to help individuals balance paid employment with disability benefits, and this one on a program that provides SOAR services to Veterans, in addition to connecting them with VA benefits and other community resources.

Where to Go to Learn More
Interested in learning more about SOAR implementation in your community? Each state has a SOAR team lead and SOAR TA Center Liaison who are available to contact for more information or for any questions you might have. Click here for details about your state.

Blog Post Authors: Amanda Aykanian, Research and Project Lead & Kelsey Whittington, Graduate Assistant. Special thanks to Cal Streeter (UT-Austin), Linda Plitt Donaldson (CUA), Nancy Meyer-Adams (CSULB), and Kristin Lupfer and Abigail Lemon (SOAR TA Center) for providing content.

Like this post?
Check out this one about other ways the UT-Austin School of Social Work partners with local agencies to create community-based learning opportunities for students.

Want more info?
Visit our website to learn more about us and our National Homelessness Social Work Initiative. And, join our mailing list to receive our newsletter.

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Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Year 2 Updates: The National Homelessness Social Work Initiative

The National Center just completed Year 2 of the National Homelessness Social Work Initiative (NHSWI). We are now a consortium of 19 partner schools of social work across the U.S., with six partners serving as Regional Hub Leaders. We are excited to announce that (as of January) leadership of the National Center has transitioned to the University of Texas at Austin, where center director Heather Larkin is now a faculty member. As a key partner, the University at Albany will serve as national collaborator in support of ongoing activities, coordination, and partnership development.

As we kick-off Year 3, we want to share some of our major Year 2 accomplishments. Below are brief summaries, with links to pertinent resources for additional information.

Regional Hub Leadership

Six regional hub leader schools play a critical role in advancing regional efforts to inform policymaking, support university-agency partnerships, and apply knowledge for practice and curriculum development. Each hub leader’s plan is unique to regional needs and includes goals specific to that school’s expertise. To learn more about the regional hub leaders, read these blog posts: California State University, Long Beach; Hunter College; Indiana University; the University of Maryland; the University of Southern California; and the University of Texas at Austin.

New York-New Jersey Regional Network

To increase the collaboration and coordination of the schools in our NY-NJ Regional Network, we created a formal leadership team to facilitate the development of goals and implementation plans. Elizabeth Bowen (University at Buffalo) took on the lead role of facilitating the regional network, with support from Dan Herman (Hunter College) and Amanda Aykanian (University at Albany). A current priority is developing plans to advocate for adequate funding for housing and evidence-based services for homeless populations in New York State. This network serves as a model for other regions.

Supporting Curriculum Integration

In the fall, we worked in partnership with CSWE’s Learning Academy to develop the free, online learning series, “Homelessness in Social Work Education”. Educators can use the series for their own professional development and also incorporate the series or individual modules into course syllabi. Module topics include: Housing First; Mental Health First Aid; Continuum of Care; Critical Time Intervention; Trauma and Adversity; and Trauma-Informed Care.

Veterans Workgroup

We formed a workgroup consisting of faculty from partner schools and representatives from the VA to explore opportunities for infusing veteran homelessness content and successful VA practice models into social work education and expanding field placements for students with dual interests in homelessness and veterans. Specific strategies are still in early development.

SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery Workgroup

Our collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) Technical Assistance Center has presented new and unique ways to provide students with training that will benefit them in their internships and when they seek employment after graduation. To facilitate this work, we formed a SOAR workgroup to bring together partner schools interested in developing pilot initiatives at their schools. To learn more about these pilot projects, read this blog post.

Research Workgroup

The research workgroup includes National Center staff, faculty contacts from partner schools (including the national co-leads of the Grand Challenge to End Homelessness), and representatives from the VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans. Initial goals of the group include: 1) finding out what homelessness research is in progress in the social work community; 2) identifying social work faculty interested in homelessness research; and 3) linking researchers with similar interests. In the fall, the group pilot tested a faculty survey about current and recent homelessness research projects, with broader administration planned for 2017.

Dissemination Activities

We continue to feature National Center and partner school accomplishments at social work conferences, including the SSWR Annual Conference and the CSWE Annual Program Meeting. We also published an invited article in Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Sciences’ special issue titled, “Ending Homelessness: A Grand Challenge for Transforming Practice and Policy”. The manuscript – “Responding to the Grand Challenge to End Homelessness: The National Homelessness Social Work Initiative” – was co-authored by National Center staff and partner school faculty contacts. In addition to these formal dissemination strategies, we continue to use our social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) and newsletter to share blog posts, connect with schools of social work, and disseminate information to interested stakeholders.

Like this post?
Check out this one to learn more about the University of Texas at Austin.

Want more info?
Visit our website to learn more about us and our National Homelessness Social Work Initiative. And, join our mailing list to receive our newsletter.

On social media?
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


NCEHS Regional Hub Leader: Indiana University

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

IUSSW champions social and economic justice causes. For example, the university runs the Student Outreach Clinic [SOC], a comprehensive health clinic, including social work, pharmacy, physical and occupational therapy, legal, vision, and dental services, which functions as a perfect training ground for social work students interested in homelessness.

Michael Patchner, Dean of the IUSSW, has been a leader in social work in several capacities, including during reformations to CSWE educational standards. He has also contributed to National Center dissemination activities, including participating in sessions as the CSWE and SSWR annual conferences.

IUSSW has enfolded its Regional Hub Leader efforts under one main goal: to be part of a national learning community, addressing the Grand Challenge to End Homelessness.  This broad goal will be realized through three activity areas: 1) regional efforts to impact homelessness, workforce development, and policymaking processes; 2) mentorship of regional schools/programs; and 3) implementing a new online course on homelessness. Progress to date has been steady and focused on forming a regional network of social work schools and increasing educational opportunities related to homelessness.

First, in an effort to understand current efforts of social work programs in the region, the IUSSW is currently working on a survey to capture activities to address homelessness, related workforce development, and associated policymaking processes. The survey results will also be compiled in a scholarly paper to be submitted for publication and shared with key policymakers, as well as the lobbyist of the Indiana Chapter of NASW. The survey results will also inform strategies for collaborating with and supporting social work programs in the region. For example, the school plans to provide technical assistance to regional schools and programs to enhance efforts to address homelessness, related workforce development, and policy advocacy. They will also hold regional conference calls on a quarterly basis.

Second, IUSSW is working to create an online course on homelessness to raise awareness among social work students about the nature and prevalence of homelessness as it relates to poverty, mental illness, and other social concerns. The school believes the course will help spark an interest in field placement options and career paths in homeless services.

Finally, a third cohort of advanced MSW clinical social work students began a year of special training to better understand transition aged youth, ages 16 to 25, who are underserved and face a variety of risks including homelessness. The training is part of a $1.4 million grant the school received from the Health Resources and Services Administration. By the end of the project, the school will have provided special training to nearly 100 social work students who each receive a stipend of $10,000.

Like this post?
Check out this one for information on another one of our regional hub schools, CSU, Long Beach.

Want more info?
Visit our website to learn more about us and our National Homelessness Social Work Initiative. And, join our mailing list to receive our newsletter.

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NCEHS Regional Hub Leader: University of Texas at Austin

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.

Like this post?

Check out this one on how the UTA School of Social Work partners with homeless service agencies to create community-based learning opportunities for students.

Want more info?

Visit our website to learn more about us and our National Homelessness Social Work Initiative. And join our mailing list to receive our newsletter.

On social media?

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.