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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Social Work Students Release Homeless Study May 11

SALISBURY, MD---Following a three-month study on problems faced by the local homeless community, Salisbury University graduate social work students present their findings to a meeting of the Tri-County Alliance for the Homeless 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 11, in the Caroline Room of the Guerrieri University Center. In February, Wicomico County's emergency shelters were full as cold days and colder nights left a need for warmth and shelter among the local homeless community. The Joseph House, a Salisbury-based crisis and day  shelter attempted to rectify the problem by opening its doors 24 hours, providing shelter for up to 23 people per night. According to the 83-page report, the center's small staff could not keep up with the demand. Under the direction of adjunct social work professor Clare Weaver, SU students worked to help organize the Joseph House and assist them thorough the crisis until the homeless could find appropriate shelter. Students began by visiting local shelters and meeting with personnel from agencies providing homeless services including Diakonia, the Christian Shelter, the Tri-County Alliance for the  Homeless and several area churches. "We wanted to get a better understanding of the various programs and services they offered to the homeless, as well as their input on the problem of homelessness in this area," Weaver said. "All homeless shelters were full and even with the Joseph House opening its doors, there were still several individuals spending their nights on the streets trying to keep as warm as they could. There were even three homeless individuals in the area that died from freezing to death. Though Wicomico County has an emergency plan on paper for the homeless during freezing temperatures, this plan failed to be activated." Students also gathered information about successful homeless programs from around the United States, conducted an agency analysis of the Joseph House and completed a community assessment of the problem in the Salisbury area. They noted a lack of communication between agencies and  churches with similar goals and attempted to unite and network those agencies to eliminate gaps in services and referrals. They also conducted a community awareness campaign, seeking donations to the Joseph House from community members and local businesses. Using research from the study, the students developed a suggested plan of action for  Wicomico County so that next winter the crisis can be prevented. "Homelessness is a community problem, and we should work together as a community to eliminate it," Weaver said. The presentation is free and the public is cordially invited.  For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.

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