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Human Services


Randy Heinrich


The costs of social change efforts addressing homelessness among mentally ill individuals has increased in the United States over the past 40 years. Social workers face challenges with developing or executing individualized housing and mental health plans for older homeless women with schizophrenia. The purpose of this study was to examine the lived experiences among homeless shelter social workers who help women with schizophrenia during housing and mental health support implementation. This transcendental phenomenological study was anchored with Husserl’s theoretical context of human perceptions of reality within previous subjective experiences. The research question was: When implementing mental health and housing services, how do social workers’ experiences serve older adult women with schizophrenia who are homeless? The research involved use of semi-structured telephone interviews with 9 social workers employed at homeless shelters for schizophrenic women. Interview data were reviewed and coded to participants. Using the modified van Kaam data analysis, themes emerged. Participants reported that they enjoyed working with the population but faced difficulties in client denial of mental health status, aversion to stigma associated with schizophrenia diagnosis, experience of domestic violence, and service duplication as clients left and reentered the shelter system known as a revolving door. Social work administration may use these findings to enhance and refine the levels of support for social workers serving this sector and broaden strategies across support boundaries to improve services.

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