Community Service in New Orleans

July 11, 2011

Four students from Wheelock's graduate Master of Social Work (MSW) program spent a week in New Orleans to conduct a research project that will help shape how emergency shelter will be provided to the city's domestic violence victims in the future.

After a domestic violence center in New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the shelter's clients were scattered and difficult to reach. Rather than starting from scratch and rebuilding the facility, the shelter's staff instead began providing women with vouchers for hotel rooms. They found that they could serve more people and could tailor the services to meet the individual needs of women and families better than they could when they had a physical shelter.

After six years without a shelter, the staff wanted to evaluate which approach—shelter-based or non-shelter-based—is most beneficial.

So, in May 2011, the four Wheelock MSW students, led by Wheelock Assistant Professor of Social Work Dr. Nicole Dubus, spent a week in New Orleans collecting information and stories from past recipients of the emergency housing. The MSW students were trained in research interviewing, field note writing, and data analysis. During their stay in New Orleans, the students role-played difficult interviewing situations, learned about domestic violence, observed civil and criminal court proceedings, toured agencies, walked through neighborhoods still abandoned post-Katrina, and sat in on a national steering committee of the Family Justice Center.

At the end of the trip, the students produced a detailed report of their findings. This report is the beginning of the Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Services program evaluation that will help determine how domestic violence victims in New Orleans receive emergency shelter in the future. 

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