Social Work for the Homeless
The preamble to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics states that “The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people,
with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty.”
This kind of mission statement makes it easy to make the case that engaging in work to prevent and eliminate homelessness is in essence social work.
Homelessness is a relatively easy idea to explain to everyday Americans, but unfortunately can be quite complex and difficult to conceptualize.
When I tell you that I met a homeless person yesterday, you are likely thinking of an unshaven, dirty ragged individual sleeping on the street at night and during the day holding up a cardboard box sign that asks for money.
You might be picturing a Vietnam War veteran with PTSD, a yellow-toothed woman with heroin addiction, slowly pushing a rusted metallic shopping cart filled with recyclable soda cans and smelly clothes stuffed into plastic bags.
Somehow, largely because of governmental policies that criminalize poverty and homelessness, these smelly, dirty, mentally ill drug addicts holding up cardboard signs have become the public image of homelessness.
They are powerful images, ones that affect even social workers and aspiring social workers. It’s upon the backdrop of such images that this Pinterest Board must address the question, “Why social work for the homeless?”
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