American Sociological Association

Sociology in Action: Tauna Sisco

Tauna Sisco, Saint Anselm College, worked on homeless issues with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Homeless and Housing in Concord, NH. ASA asked Sisco about that work:

What is the mission of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services? To meet the health needs of New Hampshire citizens. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes its responsibility to improve access to health care, to ensure its quality and to control costs through improved purchasing, planning and organization of health care services. The Department works to prevent disease and to protect and improve the health and safety of all citizens through regulatory and health promotion efforts.

Can you describe the project in more detail? From 2008-2013, I volunteered as a research associate for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Homeless and Housing Services. Along with Saint Anselm student volunteers, I helped the agency with design, collection, and analysis of The NH Homeless Needs/Assessment Survey. The survey, fielded each spring from 2009-2014 to homeless individuals throughout the state, provided the first needed glimpse of the growing social problem of homelessness in New Hampshire. The survey was a joint effort between the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Homeless and Housing Services, Saint Anselm College (lead research college), and eight other area college and universities. The 2009 pilot survey had 91 respondents, the 2010 survey had 231 respondents, and the 2011 survey had 374 respondents, the 2012 survey had 313 respondents, and the 2013 had 297 respondents. The 96-item survey consists of questions that asked respondents about their demographic backgrounds, military backgrounds, lengths of homeless episodes, previous state placement as minors, access to healthcare for them and dependent children, current and previous employment, alcohol and drug abuse, mental health background, and criminal background. It also assessed respondents’ use of various local and state agencies (TANF, SSDI, job training, food stamps). Beyond designing the instrument, collecting/analyzing the data, I, along with a representative from NH DHHS, presented the findings to local Continuums of Care (CoC).

What sociological knowledge and/or skills did you use for this project? This project included a myriad of sociological knowledge and skills such sampling and research design, survey construction, face-to-face interviewing, quantitative data analysis and presentation of results. Further, the project required familiarity with disadvantaged groups, income inequality, social welfare, and generational differences. Finally, the project allowed service-learning and engagement for students.

How did you connect with the NH DHHS? The organization contacted me for help. We have a network of community engagement at Saint Anselm College.