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Students Survey Homeless to Help Determine Services

A group of Sociology students conducted a survey on how to better serve the area’s homeless.

The point-in-time count was commissioned this spring by the regional office of Housing and Urban Development and administered by United Way and its volunteers.

“Students were trained to be able to identify what qualified people as homeless according to the HUD guidelines, and they also administered a survey and a brief interview,” says Angie Henderson, associate professor of Sociology.

Henderson says that the data and information collected by the students will be used by HUD to determine how much funding Weld County gets to address the needs of the homeless.

The project “shows that going out there and getting data about people can make a difference in people’s lives,” says JJ Christofferson, a second-year master’s student.

“It’s easy to see survey results or read an article and you see findings that aren’t really connected,” he says. “With the survey, you see the people that you might be helping, and you talk to them and learn more about them.”

Lauren McDonald worked at the Denver Rescue Mission during winter break each of the last two years. The junior says the experience has inspired her to work with the homeless after she graduates, and her work on the survey strengthened her desire.

“I’m not a person who learns just from sitting in class and reading books. I have to go out and do it for myself and learn that way,” McDonald says. “Everything about our program gets you out of a box and gets you doing things that you’ll be doing for your job someday.”

Henderson says UNC will participate in future surveys, starting this summer.

“We’re able to pair students with local organizations and address needs directly in the community to get students engaged and involved,” she says. “They’re doing sociology, but they’re also doing sociology that is related to social justice, which is what they’re learning in class.”

– Parker Cotton

Figures that offer a glimpse into the state of homelessness in the area at the time of the survey:
88 — total unsheltered homeless
82 percent — male and older than 24.
42 percent — self-identified as having at least one disabling condition, such as a mental illness or substance abuse disorder.


Research conducted by UNC faculty and students gains attention, including coverage by state, national and international media.

According to the World Health Organization, 1 billion people ages 12-35 are putting their hearing at risk with unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to noise at concerts, bars and other venues. Work by Professor of Audiology Deanna Meinke and graduate student Mary Owen that uses mannequins and a sound meter to show kids safe levels for listening to music was featured March 15 in USA Today. Meinke, who’s co-director of the Dangerous Decibels initiative, also provided expert commentary for a Feb. 17 story in the Washington Post about noise-induced hearing loss in workout facilities. She was the only American invited to serve on a panel on International Ear Care Day on March 3 during the launch of WHO’s “Make Listening Safe” campaign in Geneva, Switzerland.

Josh Packard, assistant professor of Sociology, was interviewed for a story in the March 14 Winnipeg Free Press about his research on what he calls “dones” — Christians who still identify strongly with their faith but are done attending church. In his book Church Refugees, Packard says that people become dones for a variety of reasons: They’re bored with repetitive church services, tired of being lectured to in sermons, put off by congregation politics or want more time to be involved with their local community.

As reported in the Sept. 14 Denver Post, an exhaustive analysis of five years of data led by Elysia Clemens, associate professor of Applied Psychology and Counselor Education, found that foster care children in Colorado are less likely to graduate from high school than homeless students. The research, part of a collaborative effort that includes Colorado’s Department of Education and Department of Human Services, will serve as the foundation for creating a road map for reforms in the state’s child welfare system.

A story in the March 9 Christian Science Monitor about the racist chant by a University of Oklahoma fraternity includes expert commentary by Nicholas Syrett. The UNC associate professor of History is author of The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities. In the story, he notes that there’s not much data about racial demographics in fraternities because “they don’t want to talk about it openly.”

Associate Professor of Psychology Thomas Dunn was interviewed for stories in the Nov. 10 Wall Street Journal and on CNN’s website about his research that establishes guidelines to help medical professionals diagnose orthorexia nervosa, an obsession with healthy eating that can lead to unhealthy consequences. “It’s not that they’re doing it to get thin, they’re doing it to get healthy,” Dunn tells the WSJ. “It’s just sort of a mind-set where it gets taken to an extreme like what we see with other mental illness.”

Bats from the lab of Professor Rick Adams appear on the cover of the April issue of the Journal of Anatomy. The featured article about Jamaican fruit bat’s inner ear and sonar development and the relationship to flight ability was written by Adams and UNC graduate Richard Carter, who’s now teaching at Ohio University. Adams took the photo that appeared on the cover.

Professor of Economics Mark Eiswerth is quoted in a report, which received state media coverage, from the Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center titled: “Dangerous Inheritance: The Hotter, More Extreme Climate We’re Passing Down to America’s Young. He says:

“In Colorado, one of the most important and likely impacts of climate change and temperature rise involves changes in the magnitude and seasonal timing of water availability.”

“Uncertainties surrounding water availability have major implications for the economy and public health and wellbeing, making climate change an important issue to address for the sake of current and future generations,” he adds.

According to the analysis, average temperatures in Colorado have outpaced the national average by rising 1.9 degrees over the last five generations, leading to drought, severe wildfires and floods. Without changes in carbon emissions, the temperature will rise 5-10 degrees when today’s children reach retirement, the report states.



When the project is finished, all editions since 1892 will be available to the public and searchable online through Digital UNC. The 70,000 pages of The Crucible (1892-1921) and The Mirror (1919-2000) will be available online in late summer. Papers from 2000 forward have already been added to Digital UNC ( In addition to student newspapers, yearbooks and course catalogs were added to Digital UNC last summer. The site also contains photos. Once scanned, the original print pages will be preserved in archival folders in Michener Library.