Housing Partners with UNC School of Social Work Assisting residents in developing life skills, connecting students

Post Date:09/29/2017 12:11 PM

Faith Thompson and Alex Lombardi at Chapel Hill Department of Housing

UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Alex Lombardi had an aha moment shortly after she began working as an intern for the Housing Department.

Public housing neighborhoods in Chapel Hill are surrounded by student housing. But the communities and residents don’t really mix.

“In Chapel Hill, public housing is so well integrated, that many students are unaware,” she said. “When you’re a student you’re in a sort of bubble.”

Now Lombardi wants to get to know her neighbors – and it’s because of where she works. She is the first student from UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work in a new field instruction course based at the Town of Chapel Hill Housing Department.

The program aims to educate social workers for advanced practice through a field education. The student learns through delivering a social work service in a practice setting under the tutelage of a task supervisor as well as a field instructor. Lombardi’s onsite mentor is Housing Director Faith Thompson, who initiated the partnership with the School of Social Work for the benefit of public housing residents.   Karon Johnson from the Chapel Hill Police Department, who holds a master’s degree in social work from UNC-Chapel Hill, serves as the field supervisor.

“There are 937 residents who represent diverse backgrounds and cultures; in fact a significant number are immigrants,” Thompson said. “Many are looking for a life and career path.”

This is where Lombardi is contributing. She is tasked with developing a skills assessment for public housing residents. The assessment will aid the Housing Department in developing programs to assist residents in developing life skills and achieve economic independence.

Lombardi has become a college student who is good at making connections. She is out and about getting to know many who live in the 336 public housing apartments in 13 neighborhoods throughout Chapel Hill and Carrboro – including some neighbors who are right around her corner.

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