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Simmons University Magazine

Wanted: A Place Called Home

Simmons professors are researching homelessness in pursuit of solutions.

“To change the world, you need to understand it. From development to implementation, our students study the impacts of policy and analyze the social forces that shape communities around the globe. They learn from faculty who put their research to work improving social and economic policy for real-world systems change.” —Dean Stephanie Berzin, College of Social Sciences, Policy, and Practice

At the School of Social Work, three professors are focused on different homeless populations: veterans, people with mental illness and survivors of intimate partner violence. All told, roughly 554,000 people were homeless in the United States on a given night last year, according to a U.S. government report.

Abbie Frost ’09EE

Associate Professor Abbie Frost’s commitment to helping “unstably housed” veterans includes research and practice. She’s a board member at the New England Center and Home for Veterans in downtown Boston, where she chairs the Veterans Services Program Committee. Frost notes that helping any population involves identifying factors that restrict options in receiving services. Case in point: Only veterans honorably discharged are eligible for permanent, supportive housing through the Veterans Administration.

Lydia Ogden

Assistant Professor Lydia Ogden’s clinical social work practice includes work in housing, inpatient psychiatry, and a day treatment program for older adults with serious mental illness. She explains that having housing (particularly with program rules and staff supervision) doesn’t mean people feel “at home”—a stabilizing experience that helps people recover and regain hope. Ogden’s currently working on a “positive psychology” project. One application: help a person develop a “strength-based story” about their experience that highlights strengths and abilities, in order to empower and affirm their identities.

Kristie Thomas

Associate Professor Kristie Thomas has extensive practice and teaching experience in the fields of intimate partner violence and homelessness. Her current housing-related projects include an exploratory study on experiences of homeless survivors of violence who have used multiple shelter systems, and a collaboration with researchers at Arizona State University on a study evaluating SASH (Survivors Achieving Stable Housing), a project that provides Housing Choice Vouchers to survivors of intimate partner violence. As one example of the impact of her work, her study on emergency assistance hotels was cited in a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case.