Monday, November 24, 2014

Anchorage Point-in-Time Homeless Youth Count

Kathi Trawver and Donna Aguiniga, School of Social Work, created a project with Covenant House, Alaska Youth Advocates and Parachutes with their mini-grant from the Center for Community Engagement & Learning last spring semester.  Twenty-five undergraduates assisted with the project, along with a Community-Engaged Student Assistant (CESA) who supported the faculty in recruiting and training community volunteers.  Volunteers were trained to conduct an assertive point-in-time outreach count of Anchorage's homeless youth. Trawver and Aguiniga provided data entry and analysis, and presented results to community partners.

Covenant House in Anchorage, AK 

Trawver and Aguiniga described their project as follows: 

We developed this research project in response to a compelling community need (i.e., a gross undercount of homeless youth during federally mandated annual point-in-time counts) that resulted in an opportunity for approximately 25 students to become engaged in their community.   In partnership with community providers, faculty developed an outreach training and survey instrument. On January 29, 2014, student volunteers paired with an agency outreach worker conducted outreach interviews across the city over a 24-hour time-period. During the count, we helped manage a centralized deployment center, inputted all returned data, and provided support and debriefing to returning volunteer students.   

Point in Time Survey for Homeless Youth 2014 

Students involved in this project became intimately aware of the complex issues related to homeless youth in our community. Through training sessions provided by community professionals and formerly homeless youth and conducting community outreach interviews, students gained valuable field experience under the mentorship of professional community partners and UAA faculty.   Our team conducted more than 70 interviews of homeless youth, almost double the number who were identified the prior year! Following the event, we conducted an analysis of the data and presented aggregated results to our community partners. Student volunteers also assisted agency staff by taking part in an outreach after-party for participating youth.   

Trawver and Aguiniga explained that community providers don't often have data given back to them in a way in which they can use it for effective program planning.  This project gave the community partners control over the data that was collected and allowed them to receive results quickly.  They plan a continued collaboration and another outreach project in January 2015.  They also plan to publish the results of their collaboration and present this as a project model to state homeless providers and policy makers.  

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