Social Work in the Public Eye (January 2016)

Toby HurHomelessness in Los Angeles has increased more than 12 percent since 2013, according to an article in the Daily Bruin, a publication serving the University of California, Los Angeles, community.

A city council plan that discusses spending $100 million to eliminate homelessness in the city has received criticism from several UCLA experts, including NASW member Toby Hur, a UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs faculty member who studies homelessness.

Critics of the plan say the funding cannot provide a permanent solution, the article says. Part of the $100 million is to be used to provide homeless people with suitable housing through a voucher system. But Hur says the system does not help chronically homeless people who are suffering from substance abuse, mental illness or domestic violence.

These individuals need to be in a facility that offers access to counselors and medical attention, he said, adding that the $100 million pales in comparison to what other cities have paid. The article cites the example of New York City, which has spent more than $40 billion on housing for the homeless.

“We have not paid enough attention to this issue,” Hur says in the article. “Now we have to face the problems that we have swept under the rug for several decades.”

Los Angeles has the second-largest homeless population in the U.S. The article says most homelessness experts believe the permanent supportive housing model is the best long-term solution.

Even though Hur doesn’t think the proposal will supply enough funding, he said it’s a good start.

“There’s no single solution, so any effort is better than nothing,” Hur said.

The Yazidis, a religious-ethnic minority in Iraq, received world attention in 2014 after trying to escape Islamic State fighters and seeking refuge in Sinjar, a mountainous region in Iraq.

Christine AbdulAn article in Voice of America says Lincoln, Neb., holds the largest community of Yazidis in North America, and the group took action after last year’s incident. They were largely led by social worker Laila Khoudeida, a close friend of NASW member Christine Abdul.

NASW’s Nebraska Chapter honored Khoudeida as “Citizen of the Year,” and the article says Abdul is impressed with her friend’s dedication to the Yazidi cause.

“She is just very inspiring in how she is so passionate about what is happening there,” Abdul says in the article.

Khoudeida and other American Yazidis formed the group Yazda last year, through which Khoudeida continues to seek help for the estimated 3,000 Yazidi women and girls who remain under the brutal control of Islamic State, the article says.

Hoarding is a growing concern for several service agencies, says an article in WellFleet, in Provincetown, Mass.

Kristin HatchSocial workers say it’s a complex problem that’s often misunderstood. NASW member Kristin Hatch is quoted in the article, and she serves on both the Provincetown Housing Authority and the Community Housing Council.

Hatch has hoarding on her radar and attended an all-day training session in Boston, which included NASW member Gail Steketee, an expert on the subject.

Hatch says in the article that hoarding affects the people of Provincetown in a couple of ways.

“It can create a physically and mentally unhealthy environment for them,” she said. “In addition, if a person’s place needs to be cleaned out after a long tenancy, it can be costly. I do not have data on how prevalent the problem is in Provincetown, but clinical hoarding behavior data put the rate at 5 percent in the U.S.”

The article also says Hatch is pursuing a master’s degree in social work that includes training on hoarding.

A Department for Families and Children labor management committee in Vermont said workloads were hurting relationships between social workers and families and contributing to increasing danger, according to an Associated Press article that appeared in The Republic, which serves the community of Columbus, Ind.

The article says the warning came eight months before DCF worker Lara Sobel was shot and killed as she was leaving for work. Authorities say the killer was upset about losing custody of her child, and believed Sobel had a role to play.

NASW member Kara Haynes is a senior social worker who works second shift taking telephone reports about abused and neglected children for the DCF. She says social workers usually don’t put their own safety first.

“When you’re trying to worry about the safety of children that you’re tasked to look after, your safety falls to the bottom of the totem pole nearly every time,” she says in the article.

DCF employees in the department where Sobel worked received 73 threats in the two months after the shooting, the article says. The department’s commissioner said social workers, given the time to build solid relationships with troubled families, “can know when there are escalating circumstances or tensions with that family and that may not be the best time ... so it works both ways, and obviously that is a workload issue.”