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Ohio State, University District Organization partner to add full-time social worker to off-campus area

University social work students to gain valuable field experience

The Ohio State University is working with community partners to bring on a full-time social worker dedicated to helping housing-vulnerable people in the off-campus area. The hiring is one of several university initiatives designed to support the neighborhoods and residents surrounding Ohio State’s campus.

Beginning this summer, a social worker from Southeast Healthcare will work in the off-campus area, with a special emphasis on North High Street, to provide outreach and offer resources and support to people who are homeless, housing insecure, or in need of other assistance. Southeast Healthcare, based in Ohio, has a long history of helping the state’s most vulnerable populations.

While the social worker’s coverage area includes campus itself, the person will focus on the adjacent University District area.

Offering proactive social service outreach in the University District is one of the recommendations made in Ohio State’s Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being. Since its inception in fall 2020, the task force has put forth 15 recommendations that include a variety of strategies, acknowledging that “safety” means different things to different people.

As a highly trained Licensed Independent Social Worker, the person will also supervise College of Social Work undergraduate and graduate students who are acquiring experience as part of their in-the-field training. These students will gain valuable knowledge and build connections to the community, while extending the reach and impact of the new University District social worker.

“There’s a strong need for a dedicated professional to operate in the University District, and I’m thrilled that we can help meet it,” said College of Social Work Dean Tom Gregoire. “Our students will benefit greatly from this initiative and get a personal view of the issues that can lead to housing vulnerability.”

Once established, the social worker will work with community and university partners, including local businesses, law enforcement and students, staff and faculty, to get individuals help and assist with obtaining shelter and permanent supportive housing, counseling and treatment services. The social worker will make public their contact information to more easily connect with community members who may see someone who could use their services.

Ohio State continues to work to build a more empathetic community in the University District. Since February, for example, the Office of Student Life, through a grant from the Center for HumanKindness at the Columbus Foundation, has partnered with the College of Social Work and University District Organization to engage with people who are homeless or housing challenged in the North High Street area. Together, they’ve distributed 1,000 pairs of socks, hundreds of care bags and offered the services of a mobile health clinic operated by Southeast Healthcare. Ohio State has also partnered with the Reeb Avenue Center to distribute food vouchers and bus passes to those who need them.

The university has worked closely with the University District Organization on the new partnership. The nonprofit has helped to identify the needs of the off-campus community.

“Our partners in the University District have often asked how to best help the most vulnerable in the area,” said Matt Hansen, executive director of the University District Organization. “Dedicating a social worker to work full-time with this population is a great step toward providing people services and assistance they may need.”

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