Dr. Heather Larkin and Amanda Aykanian

Strategies to Advance Service Delivery and Address the Challenges of the Homeless Population: Social Work’s Call to Action (part 1 of 2)

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“I think it’s a real opportunity to bring all of our social work skills to bear in a more integrated way to help the highest risk groups to be able to truly transform bodies of individuals, families, communities, and promotes societal wellbeing, which is what we do as social workers.”

Dr. Heather Larkin&
Amanda Aykanian

In the first of a two-part podcast, our guests Dr. Heather Larkin and Amanda Aykanian discuss strategies designed to strengthen homeless services and empower the social work profession to assume a lead role in ending homelessness. They describe the National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services, the Center’s ties to the Social Work Grand Challenges, and the National Homelessness Social Work Initiative. The episode concludes by exploring misperceptions about homeless social work practice, what it actually means to work in homeless services, and how engaging in this area provides opportunities for interconnectivity across all levels of practice.

Heather Larkin, PhD, is an associate professor at the University at Albany and co-director of the National Center for Excellence in Homeless Services. Dr. Larkin has experience researching the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and service use among homeless people. She also co-developed the Restorative Integral Support (RIS) model. RIS is used to integrate evidence-supported interventions and emerging practices within intentionally-developed restorative contexts. Heather leads ACE Think Tank and Action Team meetings and works with local service agency directors to strengthen ACE response through the Healthy Environments And Relationships That Support (HEARTS) Initiative. This includes support for Service Outcomes Action Research (SOAR).


Amanda Aykanian, MA, is a doctoral candidate at the University at Albany School of Social Welfare and serves as the National Center’s research and project lead. She has more than a decade of experience conducting evaluations of homeless services and related programs. Amanda has experience in quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, data analysis, leading trainings, and teaching. Her research interests include the geographic mobility of people experiencing homelessness, the criminalization of homelessness, community-based research, and service learning.

Interviewer: Elizabeth Bowen, PhD

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