My research centers on elevating the voices of individuals experiencing homelessness through innovative interventions and research methodologies. To date, individuals experiencing homelessness remain essentially overlooked and have their voices delegitimized by researchers, policymakers, and practitioners alike and most studies largely ignore non-housing outcomes in this population.
Thus far, I have made progress toward my research agenda through independently-led research, as a member of social work research teams, and on interdisciplinary team projects. Independently, I have led a qualitative interpretive meta-synthesis of the literature on the experience of older adult homelessness in North America and a critical theory application of class conflict and social exchange theories to explain homelessness in later life. As a research team coordinator on a grant funded project, I have co-authored a systematic review of the literature on design elements for day shelters. Additionally, in this role, I have conducted a qualitative, longitudinal study of a site-based permanent supportive housing program, a quantitative analysis of health care utilization over a two year period by individuals experiencing homelessness, and a mixed-methods evaluation of a United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) coordinated entry system. As a graduate research assistant, I have had the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary team of social work, civil engineering, and computer science scholars on a grant funded project utilizing app-based technology to measure transportation disadvantage among social justice populations, including home-bound older adults and mothers experiencing homelessness. This work inspired me to further investigate the relationship between homelessness and transportation disadvantage. I was awarded a fellowship from the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) to conduct a systematic review on this topic. Finally, I have worked as a graduate research assistant on a mixed-methods project entitled "The power of communal song: Understanding the meaning of choir in the lives of homeless and formerly homeless individuals." I have co-authored a quantitative, cluster analysis of survey data, a phenomenological interpretive analysis of individual interviews, a qualitative interpretive meta-synthesis of the literature on art-based interventions for adults experiencing homelessness, and a qualitative analysis using photo elicitation techniques.
I believe that community partners are critical to social work research. The relationships that I have established through previous research efforts, namely with the Dallas Street Choir [DSC] and Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, have been instrumental in helping me to refine and pursue my research agenda. I plan to partner with the DSC for my dissertation research. Using a community-based approach, I plan to document the experience of homelessness as told by those currently or formerly experiencing homelessness through the creation of song lyrics. These songs will ultimately add to the repertoire available for DSC performances. My dissertation will test the relationship between constructionism and choral participation with social inclusion, stress, and feelings of self-worth.
My goal is to secure an academic position that will allow me to continue to pursue my research agenda, participate in community-based participatory action research, and mentor and teach students. Ultimately, I would like to secure funding from the National Endowment for the Arts for a multi-site longitudinal study to test the relationship between choral participation in street choirs and mental and physical health outcomes. Social work is uniquely positioned to lead the research and to develop innovative interventions to meet the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness. In fact, the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (2017) has listed eradicating social isolation and ending homelessness as two of the Grand Challenges of the social work profession. Elevating the voices of those experiencing isolation and homelessness can only strengthen the profession's ability to meet these noble goals.