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.

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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.

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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.

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NCEHS Regional Hub Leader: University of Maryland

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

The UMSSW, the largest school of social work in the region, is committed to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations, including homeless families. The school is committed to using its partnerships and student internship placements with homeless agencies to support service delivery to homeless families. UMSSW is also committed to exploring data and tracking trends, causes, and solutions to homelessness – most notably through the management of the Thrive@25 program, a partnership to create an approach to preventing and ending homelessness for youth with child welfare involvement. Committed to advancing new models of practice and policy, the UMSSW recently collaborated with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and its stakeholders to apply for a Choice Neighborhood Grant as part of the Promised Heights Neighborhood Project.

Dr. Samuel B. Little, Assistant Dean and Director of Field Education, is committed to advancing students’ education in homelessness through field education. Field placements allow interns to have a role in housing and employment assistance, health interventions, behavioral health treatment, inter-agency collaboration, advocacy, and research. Dr. Little has also worked with municipal agencies, local shelters, and community-based programs to help homeless families access affordable housing. Throughout this work, he has forged relationships with key government agencies and advocated for effective supportive housing policies and programs. Dr. Little manages hub activities and serves as the primary faculty contact for the NHSWI. In this role, he collaborated on the preparation of a manuscript, Responding to the Grand Challenge to End Homelessness: The National Homelessness Social Work Initiative (Families in Society, 2016, 97(3), 153-159), and will participate in a panel discussion about the NHSWI at the CSWE Annual Program Meeting in November in Atlanta, GA.

The UMSSW has three main goals in its first year as a regional hub leader: 1) expand its already robust field placement offerings in and around Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, broadening the ability of the hub and its partner schools to deliver services to homeless families; 2) use data to track emerging trends, causes, and solutions to ending youth homelessness; and 3) advance new models of practice and policy, such as the Social Work Community Outreach Service and the Choice Neighborhoods Program, as an education partner to community schools and resource to social work programs.

This year, the UMSSW expanded field placement internships in the Baltimore-Washington region to serve homeless families. The number this semester is 137, up by 9 placements. Conversation is on-going with a new workgroup comprised of Department of Veteran Administration’s field instructors who helped shape the need for a Regional Hub, which includes expanding homelessness-related field placements within the VA.

In September, the school launched a 20-member Advisory Council to implement hub functions and special events at the SSW. The Council will help expand content in the curriculum, plan special events to engage with agencies that serve homeless families, and assist in the recruitment of new field placement agencies. A brochure was designed to promote hub goals and help recruit new placements to serve homeless families.

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Check out this one for an overview of Dr. Samuel B. Little’s work in supporting homeless families.

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NCEHS Regional Hub Leader: University of Southern California

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

The USCSSW, one of two regional hubs in California (the other is CSU, Long Beach), is recognized as one of the best for clinical training, with graduates also excelling in policy practice, advocacy, and program administration. The school houses the Research Cluster of Excellence on Homelessness, Housing and Social Environment, which has nurtured multiple partnerships with agencies serving people experiencing homelessness, including those providing shelter, permanent supportive housing, drug treatment, veterans services, and integrated health care. Faculty in the research cluster also serve in pro bono roles in the community as advisors and consultants.  Several faculty from the research cluster have been active in NCEHS activities, including Drs. Suzanne Wenzel, Eric Rice, and Ben Henwood. Doctoral students in the school have also gotten involved. For example, doctoral candidate Robin Petering wrote a guest blog about her experience teaching yoga to homeless youth.

Dr. Ben Henwood, Assistant Professor, has been particularly active in advancing the work of the National Center. He is a national leader in research on Housing First and recently co-authored a book on the subject. Dr. Henwood led the development of the Grand Challenge of Ending Homelessness (GCEH) concept paper, which was adopted by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW) as one of 12 grand challenges to the social work profession. He now co-leads the implementation of this grand challenge.

As a Regional Hub Leader, the USCSSW aims to: 1) pursue NIH funds for new homelessness research, mentoring, outreach, and homeless service partnerships; 2) advance collaborative homelessness research across schools of social work; 3) create local collaboratives with policymakers and providers; and 4) disseminate homelessness knowledge through conferences and leadership positions to advance data-driven policies and programs. The research cluster provides a laboratory for federal research grant development and advancing international research on homelessness through interdisciplinary networking and events. Efforts also address identifying opportunities to further develop expertise in homelessness across the region and nationally, such as through training grants and conferences.

The USCSSW’s role as a Regional Hub leader has coalesced with Dr. Henwood’s role as the co-lead of the AASWSW GCEH and USC’s own initiative in which the University has taken on homelessness as a “wicked problem”. Recent highlights include:

  • Continued NIH and other funding for research on homelessness:
    • HIV Risk, Drug Use, Social Networks: Homeless Persons Transitioned to Housing, National Institute of Drug Abuse (PI: Wenzel; 1R01DA036345-01A1)
    • Understanding Risk Environment for Youth in Supportive Housing, National Institute of Mental Health (PI: Henwood; 1R01MH110206-01)
    • Peers and Social Media to Promote HIV Testing and Treatment of Homeless Youth, California State Funded (PI: Rice)
    • Addressing Geriatric Syndromes within Permanent Supportive Housing, National Institute on Aging. (PI: Henwood; 1R21AG050009)
  • USC Homelessness Summit: In April, USC launched an initiative aligning the university with the community and local governments in the effort to end homelessness in Los Angeles. This university-wide initiative advances the concept that universities can serve as “anchor institutions” in their communities for important social problems. As part of the USC initiative, the SSW has been selected to consult on the 2017 regional homeless count.
  • Grand Challenge to End Homelessness Enhanced Field-Placement (EFP) Project: This fall the USCSSW launched a pilot project in which a cohort of 15 MSW students were placed in a field practicum designed to educate students on policy and clinical practice to combat homelessness. Students participated in a kick-off event prior to their placement and will meet monthly as a cohort.
  • Survey on Social Work Research focused on homelessness: As part of a NCEHS research workgroup, USCSSW has helped develop a survey to assess what social work research is being conducted on homelessness and how that research addresses a larger research agenda. Data collection will begin this fall.

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Check out this one for an overview of USC’s Research Cluster.

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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.

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

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National Center Kicks Off Federal Government Networking Activities

This past December and January, the National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services held in-person networking meetings with representatives of multiple federal agencies to discuss opportunities to collaborate with government stakeholders in efforts to end homelessness. Building relationships with government agencies is a key component of the Center’s National Homelessness Social Work Initiative (NHSWI), supporting our work to impact the policymaking process and make social work the go-to profession for responding to homelessness. The intention of the meetings was to begin building a collaborative relationship between the National Center and federal agencies and groups with a vested interested in addressing homelessness.

As part of the NHSWI, a New York Trust funded initiative in its second year, the National Center has partnered with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) to engage federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH).  CSWE offered invaluable help in the process of arranging and preparing for the in-person meetings.

Meetings were held with staff members from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), USICH, the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness, HUD, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Homeless Veterans Initiative Office. In addition to National Center staff from UAlbany and staff from CSWE, representatives from National Center partner schools also attended, including faculty from Hunter College, the Catholic University of America, the University of Maryland, California State University-Long Beach, and the University of Texas at Austin.

Meeting discussions were oriented around introductory conversations to introduce the government representatives to the work of the National Center, the goals of the NHSWI, and to learn about current federal activities and priorities. Topics discussed at the meetings included:

  • SAMHSA’s PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) program and how the National Center might connect with the program’s network of homelessness providers across the U.S.;
  • The Housing First philosophy embraced by the VA and USICH, and how this aligns with research and policy suggestions set forth by NCEHS partners, including a recent book publication by faculty partners;
  • The VA’s efforts to continue the momentum created by the current administration to address veteran homelessness and opportunities for the National Center to support this work;
  • USICH’s Priority Communities Initiative, part of the Opening Doors strategic plan, and how the National Center might create linkages between our partner schools and government agencies within those communities; and
  • Opportunities to connect with the National Alliance to End Homelessness for future advocacy efforts.

These networking meetings are an exciting opportunity for the National Center to introduce its mission, its current projects, and its consortium of schools of social work to the key federal agencies working to end homelessness nationally. The National Center is taking necessary next steps to explore the multiple and varied recommendations that emerged from these meetings. One immediate development was the creation of a workgroup with members from the VA, National Center staff, and representatives from our partner schools. Capitalizing on the VA’s enthusiasm to further advance their work on veteran homelessness, the workgroup will meet monthly to discuss opportunities to collaborate and coordinate efforts.

Future blog posts will provide updates on additional activities as they emerge.

Blog Post Authors: Jeffrey Roberts (graduate student assistant) and Amanda Aykanian (Research and Project Lead)

Faculty and Students at the College at Brockport Advocate for the Rights of People Experiencing Homelessness

Professors Barbara Kasper and Melissa Sydor (College at Brockport – SUNY, Department of Social Work) have led several community organizing activities to involve the school’s BSW program in efforts to connect with the struggles of the homeless population in their community (Rochester, NY). These community-based educational activities reflect a commitment to CSWE’s Competency 3, which underscores social workers’ need to understand strategies designed to eliminate oppressive structural barriers and to advance social, economic, and environmental justice.

At the school, internships are intended to provide students with micro and macro practice experience. However, if a placement cannot provide macro practice experience, students can organize campus and community-based events to meet this requirement. Additionally, many students volunteer to be part of events beyond doing so for course credit. Community organizing efforts at the school range in type and scope. Some examples are provided below.

Learning about Organization Efforts Led by Homeless People

Students and local activists, in collaboration with campus- and community-based partners, joined together to bring Cheri Honkala, leader of the Poor People’s Economic Rights Campaign, to speak at an event titled “Connecting the Struggles and Building a Movement: Stories of Struggle and Resonance.” Honkala spoke about what poor and homeless people are doing around the country to fight back against their invisibility and advocate for their economic rights. A panel of local activists and experts contributed to the discussion, with a particular focus on recent issues related to Rochester’s homeless population.

Advocating for the Rights of Homeless People

In December of 2014, the City of Rochester bulldozed a tent city referred to as “Sanctuary Village,” which destroyed the shelter and personal belongings of more than 40 homeless people. The city eventually agreed to allow these people to be housed temporarily in a warehouse. In response to the bulldozing, Barbara Kasper wrote an essay for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle about barriers to housing faced by homeless people and advocating for the city to adopt a Homeless Bill of Rights. Additionally, Kasper and Sydor organized a community forum, which featured Willie Baptist – a formerly homeless man with more than 40 years of community organizing experience with the poor. The event also included representatives from Picture the Homeless, an organization in New York City that develops leadership among homeless people to impact policies and systems that affect their lives. Over 100 people attended the forum. Students helped plan and promote the event, either as part of a course or as volunteers.

Photography student, Audrey Horn, from the Rochester Institute of Technology created this video for the event to document the disparity between what many would consider a “typical” day and a day experienced by individuals living in a temporary homeless shelter. This video features Sanctuary Village in Rochester, New York.

Raising Awareness with a Campus Tent City Event

A Tent City event occurs annually on the main campus at Brockport. This two-day event is typically organized by students. Tent City is a community education and awareness event as well as a fundraiser for local organizations who serve the homeless. In addition to sleeping outside in tents overnight, students solicit local businesses for donations; “panhandle” on campus for donations; collect clothing donations; recruit and supervise volunteers; invite local anti-poverty activists to speak; and screen documentaries that focus on poverty and homelessness. Click here for a press release about the 2015 Tent City event.

Blog Post Author: Amanda Aykanian, Research and Project Lead

Special thanks to Barbara Kasper for providing content for this blog post.