SOCW 615/616: Applied Social Work Experience

ACU graduate students are taking their knowledge and passion for social work to CitySquare in Dallas to help the at-risk and homeless population through investigation and application. 

ACU’s School of Social Work has partnered with CitySquare to help end poverty in Dallas. Ten students and three faculty have developed a plan based on the needs of CitySquare. Two of these students have already taken SOCW 615/616, a research class, and are completing a practicum at CitySquare while living on-site in Dallas for a year. The other eight students will be conducting research from Abilene.

The partnership between CitySquare and the School of Social Work has been active for more than ten years. In the fall of 2011, students, faculty, and graduate assistants advanced CitySquare’s mission to end poverty in Dallas by researching the profile and needs of the chronically homeless in Dallas. To this end, they visited CitySquare property, worked with the homeless, toured the agency, and sat down with CitySquare supervisors to discuss their needs. They learned CitySquare was starting a housing-first program that would provide housing to the chronically homeless, but the program staff did not have information regarding the characteristics of people needing their assistance. The ACU Department of Social Work conducted research and developed the general profile and basic count of the homeless individuals CitySquare could assist in their housing-first program. This information is now being used as background information by a graduate student writing her thesis on the need for the housing-first program in the Dallas area.

In 2012-13, students and faculty  in the School of Social Work are spending time at CitySquare investigating the needs of CitySquare and its neighbors in Dallas. As in previous years, the students are spending time with a number of homeless people, as well as the employees at CitySquare. They discovered the need for case management as a bigger part of CitySquare to holistically serve the neighbors there. One of the graduate students living at CitySquare is currently gathering and putting information into a database called “Efforts to Outcomes.” The first-year graduate students at ACU will analyze the information. The research findings may help secure future funding for case management throughout the CitySquare organization, as well as help measure the program’s success.

The School of Social Work is planning ways to continue this partnership with CitySquare and build on the research and projects that they have already accomplished. Most immediately, in the summer of 2013, they plan to have interns providing case management stemming from the research they complete during the 2012–2013 academic year. The program is based in real-time research and development to first discover, then meet needs, so the leaders and students are experiencing an organic process – building flexibility, readiness, and resourcefulness. The result has been excellent opportunities for both learning and practical contributions.