Published May 27, 2016
by Lauren Kroening
The UB School of Social Work has been chosen as a full partner school in The National Homelessness Social Work Initiative (NHSWI). The initiative is part of the National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services at SUNY Albany and is funded by a grant from the New York Community Trust. While some students and faculty already engage with the issue of homelessness through field placements, community service, and research, this partnership allows UB SSW to place a more deliberate, organized focus on the range of social work as it relates to homelessness—including research, curriculum formation, practice and policy making.
Assistant Professor Elizabeth Bowen, PhD, serves as the School’s representative in NHSWI. Her contributions helped UB SSW move from being a liaison school in 2015 to a full partner school in 2016—one of eighteen selected nationally. Currently, her role is to interface with SUNY Albany and with other partner schools to share anything novel that UB SSW is doing to help address homelessness in innovative and effective ways. Bowen shares that, as a full partner school, “we are really meant to be leaders in developing social work’s response to homelessness.”
Part of being a successful leader is training others to continue the work. “[NHSWI] aims to prepare social work students to practice in the field of homelessness and to advance social work with respect to this issue,” Bowen states. To this end, Bowen did an informal assessment of current curriculum and field placements to see where the School is at currently as far as educating students to work with homelessness.
This partnership also provides a valuable opportunity for UB SSW to collaborate with other schools of social work across the country around the topic of homelessness. The eighteen partner schools work together on research projects and conference presentations, all with the same goal to help advance the national conversation about homelessness and the role that social work plays in addressing it. For Bowen, this chance to collaborate with others schools is encouraging. “We’re all working toward the same objective,” Bowen states, “but depending where you are in the country, homelessness is going to look different—in California, in Texas, here in Buffalo—there are going to be variations. And we can all learn from each other to get an understanding of what homelessness looks like nationally, and for different populations, such as youth or veterans.”
With the Initiative in its second year, Bowen is excited to see the growth that is happening and to be a part of its continued development. “We are hearing a lot these days about innovative service models and programs that can help improve housing stability, health, and wellness for people experiencing homelessness, so it is an exciting time to be part of this field,” says Bowen. “And while we can do a lot as individual social workers, educators and researchers to end homelessness, we can accomplish so much more by working together.”