From 2017-2020, homelessness rose by 24% in the Bay Area even as the rest of the nation experienced declines. Consequently, community partners (e.g., homeless shelters, care providers, social services) have been stretched thin. Challenges include inadequate programing to address severe disparities (e.g. mental health issues), complexities in service provision, and a lack of coordination between service providers (Bay Area Council Economic Institute, 2019).
This makes it more difficult for unhoused individuals to succeed - less than 40% of formerly unhoused transition to permanent housing and this rate continues to decline.
How universities can help
Universities such as Stanford can play a crucial role in helping community partners overcome these challenges with their resources and expertise. For instance, the medical expertise of these institutions can greatly help in designing and delivering high-quality healthcare to unhoused individuals. The concentration of tech talent and resources can also unlock systems that improve service provision and coordination among providers. We draw inspiration from Peninsula Healthcare Connection and Opportunity Center, a collaboration between Stanford and LifeMoves (largest shelter network in the Bay and one of our partners). The Opportunity Center is a center providing drop-in services for the unhoused, and Peninsula Healthcare Connection also provides medical services, including by Stanford physicians.
What we want to do
There is a great deal of work that needs to be done to support community organizations working on homelessness. Universities are well-positioned to do so and there is a high concentration of passionate, driven students and faculty who are interested in carrying out this kind of work. However, there is often a lack of platforms for students/faculty to get involved.
We aim to change this by providing a platform where students/faculty from multidisciplinary backgrounds can work on projects supporting community partners. Thus far, we have been working on projects across the spectrum of providers - from substance use counselors to public health professionals to shelter networks to hospitals.
Some of our ongoing projects include: co-developing a substance use treatment program with a homeless shelter, developing educational programs for unhoused youths, and running several research projects exploring healthcare outcomes among the unhoused. We are in the midst of refining and scaling our model of impact and would love to have you on board.