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Graduate students conduct action research study

May 10, 2019

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SOCW 511 Research Presentation

In order to learn how to do research, Master of Social Work students conducted a participatory action research study in their research class, to explore the problems and needs of persons staying at the Warming Center that was established in Carbondale this winter. The class was invited to conduct this study by two local organizations. Students presented their results at the end of the semester to these organizations and other community partners who are working to address homelessness in our community. Results of interviews with people experiencing homelessness showed that the Warming Center was very helpful.

Students also found that mental illness, substance abuse, and history of incarceration are a problem for some people experiencing homelessness, but that poverty, lack of good-paying jobs, and lack of affordable housing are problems that need to be focused on more. The sample included males and females, with 40% who had an average of one year of college, and 1/3 of these having a college degree. They had become homeless for the first time at an average age of 18. Thirty percent worked an average of 30 hours a week. Almost all were in favor of all housing ideas we presented - including tiny houses, empty rental houses, an apartment building, or help in owning their own home.

Professionals and business owners were interviewed about problems that homelessness creates in the community, including public health problems, drug market, and making customers uncomfortable. The majority thought the Warming Center was helping with these problems, by giving people a place to stay, although they did not think it was reducing pan-handling. Most thought we need more resources for homelessness in Carbondale, including long-term housing.

The research study was conducted by the SOCW 511 class and directed by Professor Dona Reese. Sonya Willis Baquedano, Ryan Bell, Darneshia Coleman, Lenorris Hughes and Hailey Whisenant presented the results which will be submitted as an article for publication.