Cal State Long Beach Professors Receive $84,980 Grant to Study Movement Patterns of Homeless
Christine Jocoy and Vincent Del Casino, both professors in the Geography Department at California State University, Long Beach, have received a one-year, $84,980 METRANS grant to study the movement patterns of Long Beach's homeless.
The study focuses on the chronic and transitional homeless people and seeks to discover how often they use public transit, where they go, what bus routes they use and their reasons for using public transit. Analysis of the data will highlight the extent of homeless mobility, the accessibility of transportation routes, including holes in service, and the differences in use among different types of homeless riders.
The two co-principal investigators will run the grant out of CSULB's Center for Behavioral Research and Services, which is housed academically within the Department of Psychology.
The METRANS Transportation Center, a joint partnership between CSULB and USC, was established in 1998 as a U.S. Department of Transportation University Transportation Center (UTC) through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. Under the UTC program, federal funding requires a dollar-for-dollar match with non-federal funds. The California State Department of Transportation (Caltrans) provides the full non-federal match to METRANS. It is the only UTC in Southern California.
"We're very pleased to receive this grant," Jocoy said. "We are going out into the community to ask the homeless if they have been on the street for a lengthy period or if they are currently in a transitional place between being in a home and out of a home. We are also interested in finding out if they have a disability or a family and then examining how these categories affect their mobility in reaching services and employment."
Del Casino sees the study of mass transit's impact on the homeless as an opportunity to study one particular dynamic of the phenomenon.
"Looking at homelessness through the lens of transportation makes homelessness seem a much more diverse experience," Del Casino noted. "There are different transportation needs for different types of homeless people. We didn't want to start from the presumption that all homeless people start at the same place and wind up at the same place.
"Some of the homeless are employed. Many of the jobless are transitional or looking for work. Their transportation needs are different. And without transportation in southern California, getting to work is a virtual impossibility," he continued. "We don't yet have a systematic understanding of the transportation services available to the homeless and we hope this is a step in that direction."
Part of the grant funds include the participation of two CSULB graduate geography majors beginning this month. Three more undergraduates will be brought on board to work 10 hours a week mixed with five hours a week of volunteer service.
"You can't just throw an undergraduate into the experience of interviewing homeless people," said Del Casino. "All student participants will perform some kind of volunteer work for homeless organizations so that they can understand the day-to-day dynamics of homeless persons and be comfortable with them. It is a way of building a connection between the university and the community."
Jocoy pointed to advantages in performing the mobility survey in Long Beach. "The issue of urban homelessness is faced by many American cities such as Chicago and Washington D.C.," Jocoy pointed out. "That leaves out second-tier cities like Long Beach, which represent substantial urban areas. There is a lot to learn about homelessness by studying a city like Long Beach."
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