Center Reports Successful Year of National Homelessness Social Work Initiative 

The University at Albany's School of Social Welfare is bringing together social work programs from across the nation to make homelessness a professional priority and foster stronger relationships between schools of social work and agencies helping homeless people.

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 29, 2016) – Discovering effective ways to end homelessness is a top priority for those in the social work field. One way the School of Social Welfare (SSW) sought to alleviate the issue was to launch a National Homelessness Social Work Initiative to bring together national social work programs to make homelessness a professional priority and foster stronger relationships between schools of social work and agencies helping the homeless.

Now, merely a year later, a new report prepared by the University at Albany’s National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services illustrates the amazing strides the Center has made.

The report and the activities of the Center are supported by a generous grant from the New York Community Trust, which recently renewed its support of the Initiative for Year Two with a $150,000 grant. This additional support from the Trust will allow the program to expand its national reach.

“The first year of the Homelessness Initiative was extremely successful,” said Center Director and Associate Professor of Social Welfare Heather Larkin. Research and Project Lead Amanda Aykanian noted, “The accomplishments of the past year are evidenced by 10 key results.”

“The work led by Dr. Larkin and her colleagues is an excellent example of the ways in which our School, faculty and staff strive to create meaningful contributions addressing complex human and social issues facing our communities today,” said Vice Provost for Public Engagement and Dean of the School of Social Welfare Darrell Wheeler.

Year One (2015) Key Results

1. Added five new national partners and 12 New York liaison schools to the consortium of schools of social work. In addition to the University at Albany, the five include: Saint Mary’s College, University of Denver, University of Maryland, University of Southern California, and University of Texas at Austin. The original partners are: Hunter College, Indiana University, Catholic University, California State Universities at Long Beach and Sacramento, and the University of Houston.

2. Maintained ongoing communication with partner and liaison schools for collaboration and strategic planning. Partner schools inform local and national policymakers; liaison schools are local collaborators for advancing state or regional objectives.

3. Documented how partner and liaison schools address homelessness content through homelessness-specific courses, homelessness related projects and activities in other courses, and community-based/service learning strategies.  For example, at UAlbany:

a. Larkin teaches a graduate course that addresses service needs of people experiencing homelessness, as well as policy implications. Her students volunteer in a homeless service agency and tour a homeless shelter in Albany.
b. Assistant Professor Wonhyung Lee uses an NPR story on Los Angeles’ Skid Row to discuss dynamics among neighborhood revitalization efforts, gentrification, and public housing.
c. Assistant Professor Catherine Lawrence uses federal housing and homelessness policy to set the historical context for discussing child welfare, including homeless and runaway youth.

4. Documented how partner and liaison schools provide homelessness-related internships to students and how these internship experiences are used in the classroom.

5. Tracked how partner and liaison schools use diverse university-community partnerships to conduct and disseminate homelessness research; provide training and professional development to homelessness research and homeless service providers; and participate in volunteer and policy advocacy activities. Professor Eric Hardiman and Larkin serve on the Board of Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless.

6. Created a foundational mission and outline for a partnership toolkit to promote the development of successful partnerships among universities, community-based agencies and groups, and other stakeholders invested in ending homelessness.

7. Disseminated partner and liaison homelessness-related accomplishments through blog posts and spotlights published monthly in the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) newsletter.

8. Participated in the 2015 CSWE Annual Program Meeting by presenting a Hot Topic panel on the Homelessness Initiative and hosting an open reception for anyone interested in learning more and meeting representatives from the National Center.

9. Held networking and strategic planning meetings with partner school representatives at the 2015 Society for Social Work Research Conference and planning for participation in the 2016 conference.

10. Hosted networking meetings with NY-NJ Regional HUD field offices and several federal government representatives to discuss opportunities for collaboration.

The Center will continue to report out on any progress in this regard. For more information, see the National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services blog.

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