Tusculum College signs agreement with Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness
An already dynamic partnership between Tusculum College and the Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness (ARCH) was strengthened Friday (Nov. 11) with the signing of a formal agreement between the organization and the College's Center for Civic Advancement.
Carolyn Brown, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at Tusculum, and Dan Rosenbaum, president of the Executive Committee of the ARCH Board of Directors, signed a memorandum of agreement at the college, formalizing a working relationship between the two to provide a strong framework for increasing student learning and addressing community interests. Through ARCH, Tusculum will also have an opportunity to form working partnerships with many other community organizations. The shared goal of the partnership is to identify needs of agencies participating in the coalition and/or areas that can be addressed through service-learning projects across the disciplines on campus.
"ARCH itself is really partners working together to accomplish a goal, which is the end of homelessness in our region," Rosenbaum said. "We are a volunteer-based organization, and people's commitment and involvement is what makes us a success." ARCH works to break the cycle of homelessness in an eight-county region in Northeast Tennessee, and believes that while it may not be possible to end homelessness in and of itself, it is possible to ensure that it is not the same people cycling from the streets into a shelter and then back to the streets.
Rosenbaum said the organization is thankful for the partnerships it has been able to develop and appreciative of the efforts for ARCH in the past by the college, particularly Dr. Melinda Dukes, professor of psychology at Tusculum, and her students. The agreement was signed during a class session of a Senior Seminar course taught by Dr. Dukes
In the past few years, students in Dr. Dukes' classes have conducted community-based research that has helped secure grant funding for an ARCH partner agency providing services to the homeless, created a brochure about a "point-in-time" survey by the coalition to collect data about the region's homeless, designed a survey instrument used in the "point-in-time" survey, and helped conduct the survey. Students in service-learning courses have also worked with agencies that provide services to the homeless.
Brown said the way the agreement will translate to students is to provide an opportunity for their involvement in community-based research. "Students will become the tool to get the data needed," she said. "It is a very, very important role. We shouldn't slight the importance of the students in working to collect this data which will help agencies be more effective and better serve the homeless."
Past research by Tusculum students, Rosenbaum explained, has helped demonstrate that the idea that people are homeless because they want to be is not true. "Research by students have shown that the homeless in our region have mental conditions, addictions, or something has happened in their lives," he continued. "The majority don't want to be homeless, but they feel there is no other option. That is the purpose of ARCH, to help service providers make a difference in the lives of these people."
Participating in the signing were representatives from ARCH's board and others involved in the coalition, Dr. Brown, Dr. Dukes, students in the class Dr. Duke is currently teaching, and Joyce Doughty, assistant director and community service coordinator of Tusculum's Center for Civic Advancement.
Shared activities outlined in the agreement include:
- Development and implementation of a Psychology course in Fall Semester
2005 which shall use community based research and mapping to gain understanding of issues faced by homeless persons in our communities. The results will be shared with our community in part through the ARCH coalition.
- Development and implementation of a Service-Learning course focused on
meeting identified needs through research and/or direct service.
- Ongoing communication of ARCH participating agency needs for additional
- Provision of education to ARCH members, in the form of grant opportunities, as
well as presentations by faculty and staff.
Objectives for students participating in the service-learning activities are to develop an understanding of the complex issues surrounding homelessness, of the use and value of community-based research techniques, and of the interconnectedness of individuals and communities. Other objectives include developing an awareness of grassroots involvement and the importance of listening to the community voice; engaging in civic action, using imagination to gain alternative perspectives for problem solving and formulating methods for change; and practicing critical thinking and effective communication through speaking, writing, and listening.
The agreement will be reviewed annually for possible revisions and updates.
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