Published June 2, 2016
The School of Social Work has been selected to be a full partner school in the National Homelessness Social Work Initiative (NHSWI), a move that allows UB students and faculty to better focus and advance their work in the area of homelessness, including research, curriculum formation, practice and policy-making.
NHSWI, part of the National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services at the University at Albany, is funded by a grant from the New York Community Trust. The UB School of Social Work, which served as a liaison school last year, was one of 18 schools nationally selected to become a full partner school.
Elizabeth Bowen, assistant professor of social work who spearheaded UB’s efforts to become a partner school, serves as the university’s representative to NHSWI. As a full partner school, Bowen says, “we are really meant to be leaders in developing social work’s response to homelessness.”
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 says. To this end, she did an informal assessment of current curriculum and field placements at other schools around the country to see where UB currently stands in educating students to work with the homeless.
The partnership with NHSWI also provides a valuable opportunity for the UB School of Social Work to collaborate with other schools of social work across the country on the topic of homelessness. The 18 partner schools work together on research projects and conference presentations, with the goal of helping to advance the national conversation about homelessness and the role 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,” she says, “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,” she says. “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.”