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Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week: Villanova Faculty Research Ways to Combat Issues Related to Homelessness

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week: Villanova Faculty Research Ways to Combat Issues Related to Homelessness

VILLANOVA, Pa. – From November 11-18, Villanova University and hundreds of communities around the country will celebrate Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, a national observance which originated at Villanova in 1975 under the guidance of the late Father Ray Jackson, OSA, an Augustinian priest whose legacy also includes co-founding the University’s Center for Peace and Justice Education. A number of Villanova faculty members from across the University continue to shine a light on issues of homelessness—researching how homelessness affects different populations, including students, families and those previously incarcerated. Continuing the awareness Fr. Jackson brought to the issue more than four decades ago, Villanova faculty are investigating homelessness from various perspectives, hoping to make a positive impact on one of the important issues facing society.

Elizabeth Burgess Dowdell, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor, College of Nursing
There are an estimated one million families across the United States are unstably housed. As Dr. Dowdell conducts research with the students she mentors, Dr. Dowdell considers factors like housing, safety and stability. Her current work with the University of Michigan is looking at the impact nursing management and care can have on reducing trauma for mothers, which means better outcomes for babies and children. She adds that nurses are in an ideal position to work with mothers and their babies through practice at shelters, clinics, hospitals and into homes.

Stacey Havlik, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Education and Counseling, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Each year 2.5 million children across the nation experience homelessness. Nearly 28,000 of that number are Pennsylvanians; 5,600 reside in Philadelphia. Many double up, sharing housing with relatives and friends. Others live in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camp grounds, in emergency or transitional shelters, are abandoned in hospitals or are awaiting foster care placement. This puts school counselors, who represent the first line of support for homeless students, in a bind. Through her research, Professor Havlik can discuss why homeless students are hard to recognize, how schools can empower counselors to provide homeless students with the services they need to remove barriers to educational success and how she trains her counseling students at Villanova to take on a role of professional advocacy for homeless students.

Janette Herbers, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Dr. Herbers received a five-year, $500,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program award earlier in 2017 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the risk and adaptation of infants who experience family homelessness and poverty in the City of Philadelphia. Research shows that while half of those children who experience family homelessness are under the age of six, little information is available about the impact of homelessness during infancy, one of the most important and vulnerable times of a child’s development. Herbers’ research will address whether homelessness threatens development beyond the risks of poverty. She studies the risk, protection and adaptation of infants who stay in family homeless shelters compared with a group of infants whose families are poor, but who have residences.

Brianna Remster, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Dr. Remster has forthcoming research on the factors and influences of homeless shelter use after incarceration from data available for the City of Philadelphia. According to Philly Homeless Management Information Systems, 9,500 single adults use homeless shelters annually. She examined nearly 12,000 individuals released from prison to Philadelphia or that originated from Philadelphia from 1999 to 2002. Dr. Remster’s research found that more than 60 percent of individuals who stayed in a shelter did so more than once. In addition, each additional year of age is associated with a 17 percent accelerated risk of shelter use and black individuals experience a threefold risk of shelter use compared to other races and ethnicities. Additionally, mental health treatment, substance dependence and maxing out of a sentence are at a much higher risk of using a homeless shelter.

After beginning at Villanova in 1975, HHAW has grown into what is now a national awareness week event held annually the week before Thanksgiving – jointly sponsored by the National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness (NSCHH) and the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). At Villanova, HHAW is co-sponsored by the Centers for Peace & Justice Education and Campus Ministry. Villanova also partners with numerous local and national organizations for the annual event, including Catholic Relief Services (CRS), NCH, Project HOME, Back on My Feet and Catholic Network of Volunteer Service.

For a full listing of Villanova's HHAW events for 2017, click here.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit