As a social work student, I really want to just say that social workers care about the homeless. I want to say that people who have degrees in human services and public administration too, I want to say those are the folks who care about the homeless. speaking for myself, the primary reason I’m studying social work is so I can attain the training, experience, and credentials to best serve the homeless.
I wonder though, who are all the other folks working in shelters, working in coalitions, advocacy groups, tenants rights activists groups, community organizers, housing providers? Some are social workers, some are public administrators, some are community organizers, and some are human services professionals. But I think the vast majority of staff working in the realm of reducing/eliminating homelessness don’t come from any of these backgrounds. I feel myself wondering why they would care. Is helping the homeless just a job that pays the bills, or is it really something they’re committed to and passionate about?
I have to admit, that it bothers me that the majority of the staff who interact with the homeless have not been specially trained for human/social services. I don’t mean to devalue degrees like education and sports management and business management, and other such qualifications, but still it does concern me that majority of those specifically trained for social work will not end up interacting too much with homeless or those at the risk of homelessness or even those who are in dire poverty. Many of us social work students in America will have huge student debts after we graduate and those that are well aware of this beforehand have been planning and training for opportunities that will pay off better. That’s understandable I suppose, though if the social work profession really is about serving those who are the most vulnerable and the most disadvantaged, the profession’s lack of participation in poverty reduction efforts is rather disappointing to me.
So who are all these other folks working to reduce and eliminate homelessness? Why do they care? Do they care?
Majority are great workers, often overburdened, underpaid, under-appreciated, but from my observations, majority are also under-equipped and improperly trained. Homeless people flood the voice mailbox of advocacy groups and city agencies with complaints upon complaints, mainly about mistreatment.
In all my social work classes, I came across about two people who had an interest in the homeless or the poor. Two, out of how many hundred of us? If social workers don’t care about the homeless, then who does? What makes them care that we who are trained to care for the most vulnerable don’t actually appear to care? If majority of staff in homeless services organizations don’t care about the homeless, what can be done so that they do start caring?