Supportive Housing Project Gives MSW Students First-hand Experience Assisting L.A.’s Homeless

Homelessness has been a growing issue in Los Angeles County in recent years. As of May 2018, approximately L.A. County residents live without a home. The Los Angeles (CSH) works to respond to this growing population of individuals in need by striving to “advance solutions that use housing as a platform for services to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people, maximize public resources, and build healthy communities.” As part of a new initiative, CSH is partnering with universities across Southern California to place Master of Social Work (MSW) students in organizations working to fight homelessness.

Donna Gallup, MSW, LSW, assistant professor in the Master of Social Work program at Azusa Pacific University, is the project consultant and is co-leading its development from the ground up. “Homelessness has traditionally been stigmatized,” said Gallup. With the homeless population increasing, this sector is vastly under-staffed and in need of good social workers who are passionate about creating change and finding new solutions. The CSH initiative aims to support these organizations while shedding a more positive light on working in the homeless sector. Additionally, it allows graduate students to gain field experience to enhance their learning.

“I was hired in December as an outside consultant,” Gallup said. “The CSH Los Angeles office doesn’t have a social worker on staff, so I’ve been acting as the liaison between the universities, working on the development and training of the program, working with the sites where students will serve, and helping with the applications from the social work students.”

Currently, 19 MSW students representing six universities are participating in this program, 5 of which are APU students. Each of these students will intern with homeless service providers across L.A. County. To be matched with their organizations, students participate in interviews, sort their top choices, and then a matching process takes place.

Brenda Ventura, an MSW student at Azusa Pacific, interned with Kingdom Causes Bellflower (KCB) this summer and will continue her internship into the school year. “My experience with KCB has been a rewarding learning experience,” Ventura said. “I have had the opportunity to help in each department, including doing outreach navigation, case management, housing navigation, and assisting my supervisor with the implementation of policies and procedures.”

The Azusa Pacific MSW students participating in the program are specializing in Community Leadership and Program Administration focusing their studies on developing the necessary skills for advocacy, leadership, management, and development.

Amy Quiroz is another APU Master of Social Work student participating in the program. She will intern at Helpline Youth Counseling (HYC) in Whittier. “I want to work with youth, and before this opportunity, I didn’t stop to think that homelessness could be present in schools, as well,” Quiroz said. “Unfortunately, homelessness doesn’t discriminate, and youth is no exception.”

The Corporation for Supportive Housing hopes these internships will engage and support “social work students...with a network of homeless services and supportive housing providers in critical community roles.” Students get the chance to apply their learning as their gain experience, while immediately helping and making a difference in the lives of those in need.

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