Social Workers and the Homeless
Written by GKCCEH
Published March 22, 2022

What you may not know about social workers and how they can serve the homeless population! 

At first glance, the general population could never grasp the importance of the connection that exists between social workers and their relationships with local organizations that serve the homeless population. 

An estimated 144,000 people who are homeless in the United States also face mental illness. A lack of adequate housing causes stress and isolation, and poor mental health negatively impacts physical health. The combination of homelessness and mental illness often results in a landslide of problems — including substance abuse and chronic unemployment — that proliferate into dire situations.

Social workers faced with the challenge of breaking the cycle of residential instability, mental illness, poverty, and addiction must be knowledgeable about available services in their area to succeed. This is why we at GKCCEH place such value on getting to know social workers and connecting them to other resources in the Kansas City metro and surrounding areas.

3 Ways Social Workers Can Help Individuals Experiencing Homelessness and Mental Illness 

  1. The Housing-First Model

The Housing First approach looks to provide alternatives to emergency shelters and transitional housing through direct access to permanent housing. By pointing participants toward the program, social workers can help provide safe, sustainable housing without preconditions for mental health or substance abuse treatments. 

  1. Keeping Documentation

By assisting in this systematic approach to keeping track of the individuals experiencing homelessness in a designated area, social workers can assist local agencies like GKCCEH in valuing each individual as more than a number, while also keeping individuals from slipping through the cracks.

  1. Non-Traditional Collaboration

Social workers can help connect non-traditional homeless resources with nontraditional partners, such as hospitals, jails, and prisons to prevent at-risk individuals from experiencing housing insecurity before it even begins.

The National Association of Social Workers Missouri Chapter

“The National Association of Social Workers Missouri Chapter is the largest professional association of social workers in the state, with over 1,400 members.” The organization’s members represent NASW throughout the state, living and working in rural, suburban, and urban counties. NASW members work in wide range of settings among diverse populations.

At last week’s monthly membership meeting, the NASW Missouri Chapter announced Kansas City native, Stephenie Smith, as the MO social worker of the year. Congrats Stephenie! Thank you for all you do. 

Staff Spotlight on Our Street Services Coordinator

 Kora Wilkes is our Street Services Coordinator. She joined GKCCEH in August of 2020 as the Coordinated Entry (CE) Intake Specialist where she worked to assess individuals for housing and connect them with resources based on their unique situations. Her new role will include street outreach, policy writing, and acting as a liaison for the community.

     Wilkes graduated with her Bachelor’s of Social Work from the University of Central Missouri in August of 2020. She is currently enrolled in the final semester of her Master’s of Social Work program at the University of Kansas! She then will be going on to pursue her Juris Doctorate. Wilkes is fiercely passionate about social justice and advocacy. As a Queer and Hard of Hearing individual, she seeks to be a voice for the communities she represents. 

Thank you for making Kansas City a better place and joining the fight to end homelessness, Kora!