Recent graduates Jamie Bohunicky, MSSA 2019, and Kasey Clouse, MSSA 2019, were just looking to put into practice skills they’d learned at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.
They didn’t plan on leaving a legacy for future graduate students that would help the homeless for years to come. But that’s exactly what they did.
Bohunicky and Clouse co-founded the Community Health Initiative, a student-run organization providing social work assistance at 2100 Lakeside, a men’s homeless shelter run by Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry in downtown Cleveland.
The idea came about in October 2018, when students at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve invited Bohunicky and Clouse—both board members at the university’s Student-Run Health Clinic—to incorporate social work into its Community Health Innovation Program, which provides medical resources and care to men at 2100 Lakeside.
So Bohunicky and Clouse learned about the shelter and the needs of the men living there.
Inspired, they got involved, providing assistance to more than 350 homeless men. Although they weren’t licensed social workers yet, they were able to help connect residents to public assistance.
The name Community Health Initiative came shortly afterward.
“We saw that these men needed resources,” said Clouse, now a mental health professional at the Nord Center, a nonprofit agency providing behavioral and mental-health services in Lorain. “We looked at their needs so we could assess their options. We tried to find out what they knew about and what services and resources they needed.”
“Sometimes,” Clouse said, “these guys just wanted to talk to someone.”
The pair also help the men locate housing options and find access to food banks, health care and hot meals.
“There are so many barriers for these men, but housing is their No. 1 issue,” Bohunicky said. “We tried to empower these men to get to the resources available to them. It made this even more special that we were able to get into the community and go where we were needed.”
There’s generally a housing wait list, but the Community Health Initiative helps the 2100 Lakeside residents navigate the cumbersome application process.
Bohunicky and Clouse had the full support of faculty, they said.
“Our students are exposed not only to social work concepts and practices, but they’re out on the frontlines,” said Grover Gilmore, dean of the Mandel School. “Jamie and Kasey are good examples of that.”
Before graduation last month, the pair scouted the next group of four social work students to continue the work.
With a transient population sheltering at 2100 Lakeside, there are new residents each day. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless estimates there are more than 22,000 homeless living in Greater Cleveland each year—as many as 4,000 each night.
“We’re looking forward to staying involved in the Community Health Initiative moving forward,” Bohunicky said. “We laid the groundwork, we laid the foundation, but we’re so happy that this is going to continue on.”
As published in The Daily, June 17, 2019.