Social Work Academy Taps Trojan to Lead National Effort Against Homelessness

Is it possible that the social work profession could eliminate the homelessness crisis in our lifetime? From the perspective of Assistant Professor Ben Henwood, homelessness is a solvable problem on a national scale, and social work is uniquely qualified to lead the charge.

Henwood is one of nine professors from universities across the United States whose working paper proposing an end to homelessness was chosen as one of the Grand Challenge initiatives by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. The academy then approached Henwood to help lead the national effort and he accepted the challenge.

“If you look at the evidence, there’s a road to ending homelessness. We’re trying to figure out how the profession can close the gap, where people can see the path and then push to actualize it,” he said. “Our intent is not to create a new initiative so much as to leverage our profession and advance what has clearly been articulated by many people as a real possibility, even though it is hard to imagine.”

A shift in focus

The ultimate goal of the Grand Challenge to End Homelessness is to wipe out homelessness in 10 years. There has already been a fundamental shift in focus toward ending the problem, as opposed to mere management of the problem that was prevalent throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Eradicating homelessness will involve addressing systemic issues related to poverty and income inequality at the federal government level. It will require policy changes to increase affordable housing, the minimum wage and disability benefits. These issues vary dramatically from state to state and region to region.

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