Magazine Feature / People

Grad students report on homelessness and unemployment

Students from the Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS) recently published the results of a case study of the St. Francis Center for the Homeless, a downtown Denver day shelter for the homeless.

In collaboration with the Center On Rights Development, master’s degree candidates Tommaso Diegoli, Mariko Frame and Matthias Hildebrandt, along with Manisha Abraham (MA ’06), investigated the center’s efforts to counter unemployment, a critical factor that contributes to homelessness. 

St. Francis has an employment center that helps clients find day labor and provides on-the-job training. In spring 2006, 20 of the center’s clients voluntarily participated in a survey designed to provide a snapshot of perceptions about unemployment. 

“Some people are extremely eager to tell you about their experiences in finding their way back to being settled within a society,” Hildebrandt says, adding that he met an extremely educated man whose potential hadn’t been realized. 

The study found that ethnicity correlated with homelessness and unemployment. More than half of those surveyed were black and one quarter were Hispanic. Because of unemployment and underemployment, they were unable to afford housing.

While the day labor program provides a temporary fix and helps some people change their condition, the study suggests a more extensive program of vocational counseling. That kind of program, Diegoli says, could translate into better jobs and increased means to afford housing, but it isn’t within St. Francis’ capacity at this time.

Peter Van Arsdale, a GSIS senior lecturer, supervised the study, which he hopes will be published in a social science journal.

Van Arsdale follows local and national efforts to combat homelessness and says Denver’s Road Home, Mayor John Hickenlooper’s 10-year initiative to end homelessness, is one of the nation’s better plans.

“I think there’s a chance, not to end homelessness, but to significantly reduce homelessness within metro Denver,” says Van Arsdale. “I like the pragmatic approach and that [the city] is partnering with people who could help provide remedies.”

While that effort will take time, Diegoli says there’s something everyone can do right away to help. He’s established an ongoing shoe drive to benefit the St. Francis Center. The drop-off box is located just inside the west entrance at Ben Cherrington Hall. All styles and sizes of new and used men’s and women’s shoes are needed.

Comments are closed.