Fitting Stories: Outreach Worker Strategies for Housing Homeless Clients
Forthcoming. Curtis Smith and Leon Anderson 
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography
*Presented at the Society for the Study of Social Problems annual conference in 2017

Abstract:
Social service outreach workers serving homeless populations exemplify Michael Lipsky’s concept of street-level bureaucrats who exert considerable discretionary power in performance of their roles. In their efforts to qualify their homeless clients for housing, outreach workers create “fitting stories” that present their clients as qualified for support within the social service contexts that provide housing services. We describe outreach workers’ creation and negotiation of fitting stories with two audiences: homeless clients and institutional gatekeepers. Outreach workers respond to barriers to qualifying their clients for housing by creatively finding ways to manipulate clients’ biographical narratives and evidence to support those narratives in ways that “fit” their clients to agency criteria for housing services. In the process, outreach workers at times play loosely with the letter of the law in attempts to meet the spirit of the law in the service of their clients and agency expectations for service delivery. 

Unearthing aggressive advocacy: Challenges and Strategies in Social Service Ethnography

2018. (under contract) in Boeri and Shukla Ethnography Uncensored.

University of California Press.

Social Service Workers’ Knowledge of and Attitudes Toward Fair Housing Laws
2016. Jennifer Roark, Jessica Lucero, Curtis Smith & David Parker
Journal of Social Service Research
Abstract
Understanding the geographical distribution and correlates of special segments of the population has the potential for offering insight into human behavior. Our study examines the Emergency and Transitional Shelter Population (ETSP)—which includes what are commonly referred to as “homeless” people. We use 2010 data from two sources: United States (US) Census Bureau county-level ETSP estimates; and North America Land Data Assimilation System Phase 2 (NLDAS-2). We investigate the ecological correlates of ETSP concentration by using a geographically-aware multilevel linear model. The specific aim is to investigate if and how atmospheric temperature is related with ETSP concentration by county—after accounting for population density and percent non-Hispanic-White. We use ArcGIS® 10.1 to create a spatial weight matrix of the ten most proximal counties and use SAS® 9.3 to create an algorithm that estimates County Cluster Dyadic Averages (CCDAs). By nesting the 31,090 CCDAs over the 3,109 counties in the continental US, we found a positive and statistically significant relationship between ETSP density and atmospheric temperature. Ecological studies should continue to explore the spatial heterogeneity of the ETSP.  

Disparities in Hispanic and non Hispanic Homeless Populations in El Paso, TX
2014. Castañeda, Ernesto, Jonathan Klassen and Curtis Smith.
Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences.

Reprinted partially in Frankfort-Nachmias,‎ Chava and Anna Leon-Guerrero. 2017. Social Statistics for a Diverse Society. SAGE. Thousand Oaks, CA. pp. 239-243.

Abstract: 
This article compares Hispanic homeless to non-Hispanic homeless individuals. Surveys were collected in “traditional homeless spaces” such as streets, alleys, and tunnels, but also at agricultural worker sites and other places where Hispanic homeless individuals may be more heavily represented. These locations are typically neglected during Point-in-Time censuses. Snowball techniques were also used to find and survey marginally-housed individuals, a population largely unresearched. It has been theorized that marginally housed individuals are more typical among the Hispanic population. Despite these improvements, this study finds an underrepresentation of Hispanics among the homeless population, as in some previous research. The survey was answered by 676 homeless individuals, of which 670 reported their ethnicity, 445 (66%) were Hispanic and 225 (34%) were non-Hispanic. Still, the percentage of Hispanic homeless people counted is disproportionately low compared to the general population of El Paso, which is 80.7% Hispanic. Comparisons were made between the Hispanic and non-Hispanic homeless populations’ experiences and characteristics, and large disparities were found in various demographics, reasons and risk factors for being homeless, experience of homelessness, sources of income currently received, and services needed but not received in the last twelve months. Policymakers, researchers, and practitioners must keep these differences in mind when addressing homelessness. 

Publications at a Glance

Health, Hope, and Human Development: Building Capacity in Public Housing Communities on the U.S.–Mexico border
2013. Mata, Holly, Maria Flores, Ernesto Castañeda, William Medina-Jerez, Josue Lachica, Curtis Smith, and Hector Olvera.
Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

Abstract: 
In this paper we highlight results from our recent survey of public housing residents living in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Our data inform our interdisciplinary (public health, education, environmental engineering, sociology) efforts to improve health and educational equity in our community, and provide ripe opportunities for policy advocacy.


book chapter:

Under Review:

Improving Homeless Point-In-Time Counts:
Engagement and the Uncovering of the Marginally Housed
Curtis Smith and Ernesto Castañeda
*Presented at the American Sociological Association annual conference in 2017

Abstract:
This paper discusses improvements made to the methodology of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) point-in-time (PIT) homeless census. HUD’s PIT results are presented to Congress for policy consideration and are used as official homeless census data. Yet, HUD’s PIT methodology has its limitations. Most cities concentrate their efforts on surveying visible homeless individuals in “traditional homeless spaces” such as parks, alleys, bus and train stations, and institutionalized populations such as homeless shelters. This study improved efforts to count homeless individuals by involving social science students enrolled in a methods of research class at a university in El Paso, Texas, but also included non-traditional homeless spaces. Using student researchers created opportunity in locating homeless contacts through social networks that fit HUD’s definition of “homeless” and enabled us to survey marginally housed individuals. We located more homeless individuals and exceeded the number of street homeless individuals surveyed by the official city count by 280 percent. We explain that this approach can be applied to counts of homeless populations in other cities. Finally, we believe our focus on student-based research had the dual effect of improving traditional PIT counts by including more homeless than only those who are visible or institutionalized while at the same time providing hands-on experience in social-science research to students in this field.   


Published in peer-reviewed journals:

Curtis Smith

Trends and Disparities in Suicide Mortality: Wisconsin’s Inauspicious Start to a New Millennium
Carlyn Graham, Eric Reither, Curtis Smith
Wisconsin Medical Journal
Abstract:
Objective: Rates of suicide mortality declined in Wisconsin's general population and among several key demographic groups during the 1980s and 1990s. This study extends previous research by examining age, sex, and race-specific changes in suicide mortality in Wisconsin from 1999 through 2015.
Methods: We obtained annual population estimates and counts of suicide deaths for age, sex, and race groups through data made public by the Center for the Disease Control and Prevention. To Assess suicide trends in the new millennium, we calculated age-adjusted annual rates of suicide mortality (both overall and separately by sex and race) from 1999 through 2015.
Results: The overall age-adjusted suicide rate of mortality in Wisconsin increased from 11.0 suicides per 100,000 person-years lived (PYL) in 1999 to 14.7 suicides per 100,000 PYL in 2015. Although males are three times more likely than females to die from suicide in Wisconsin, the rate of suicide mortality increased for both sexes after 1999. Working-age men and women experienced the sharpest increases over this period of observation. Suicide mortality also increased steadily among white Wisconsinites, and was distressingly high among Native Americans in certain years.
Conclusion: Progress made in reducing suicide mortality in Wisconsin during the 1980s and 1990s has been lost. Only select demographic groups have experienced declining rates of suicide since 1999. This signifies an urgent need for new policies capable of addressing this growing threat to the health of Wisconsin's population.

Can Atmospheric Temperature Predict Emergency and Transitional Shelter Population (ETSP) Density? A Geographically-aware Multilevel Analysis
2014. Siordia, Carlos, Ernesto Castañeda and Curtis Smith. 
Human Geography.

(Click for link)

Abstract: 
Understanding the geographical distribution and correlates of special segments of the population has the potential for offering insight into human behavior. Our study examines the Emergency and Transitional Shelter Population (ETSP)—which includes what are commonly referred to as “homeless” people. We use 2010 data from two sources: United States (US) Census Bureau county-level ETSP estimates; and North America Land Data Assimilation System Phase 2 (NLDAS-2). We investigate the ecological correlates of ETSP concentration by using a geographically-aware multilevel linear model. The specific aim is to investigate if and how atmospheric temperature is related with ETSP concentration by county—after accounting for population density and percent non-Hispanic-White. We use ArcGIS® 10.1 to create a spatial weight matrix of the ten most proximal counties and use SAS® 9.3 to create an algorithm that estimates County Cluster Dyadic Averages (CCDAs). By nesting the 31,090 CCDAs over the 3,109 counties in the continental US, we found a positive and statistically significant relationship between ETSP density and atmospheric temperature. Ecological studies should continue to explore the spatial heterogeneity of the ETSP.    
 

The Homeless and Occupy El Paso: Creating Community among the 99%
2012. Smith, Curtis, Ernesto Castañeda and Josiah Heyman.
Social Movement Studies
Reprinted in Jenny Pickerill, John Krinsky, Graeme Hayes, Kevin Gillan, and Brian Doherty. 2014. Occupy! A Global Movement. Routledge: Oxford, UK.
(Click for link)

Abstract:
Tensions between activists and the homeless were common across different Occupy locations. This article focuses on the Occupy movement in downtown El Paso, Texas. It discusses the interactions between activists and homeless people. Initially, as the Occupiers camped in the square they excluded the homeless. A pivotal point was when some Occupiers spoke out against the mistreatment of the homeless arguing that these prejudiced actions were examples of classism. Furthermore, they argued that the homeless exemplified an important segment of the 99%. The contradictions that the homeless population brought to the movement allowed for the movement to grow. The tensions disappeared once the homeless took particular roles in the maintenance of the camp and the logistics needed to keep it running. This justified the presence of these individuals in the eyes of others. This also gave the homeless people a different identity, and normalized their sleeping arrangements since everyone in the camp was sleeping in urban public areas. By becoming Occupiers, homeless individuals gained a new political role that was different from that of being a recipient of charity and services. Some homeless people even credit the activities they carried with the OccupyEl Paso movement for helping them recover from addiction and their eventual attainment of housing.The acceptance of homeless people as Occupiers gave coherence and strengthened the movement, while simultaneously providing dignity and solidarity for homeless people.