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  • The Center for Rural Homelessness

Research at The Center for Rural Homelessness

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

By Sean Small, Co-Founder & Research Director

May 1, 2023

The Center for Rural Homelessness (CRH) is a nascent project of fellow Co-Founder Jarrett Lash and I. His experiences working in the sphere of shelter and program operations for unhoused individuals with nonprofit organizations and local officials undergird his rationale and never-ending drive to utilize CRH for the persons it is intended to serve. My professional and academic background differ. I have the pleasure of working within the field of the science of human connection as the Assistant Director of The Listening Project at New York University.

My focus at The Listening Project is dismantling the crisis of connection (that is, the disconnection of the self from itself and others) through a paradigm shift in our culture, in how we view human nature. We posit that our culture is disconnecting. It takes our humanity with its complexities, ambiguities, and contradictions and imposes harmful boxes for how certain people should act. Just one example that I am sure many can relate to is the box of gender socializations where boys need to “man up” and girls need to “act like a lady;” these inherently split people from the richness of human experience- that everyone is both masculine and feminine. This mission to disrupt the crisis of connection is not highfalutin and lofty in its praxis. I have been lucky enough to engage in this process in New York City public and private schools through a concrete methodology, transformative interviewing, where one is able to see oneself in others (and vice-versa) by developing core tools to distill the meaningful stories that echo within us all. By concomitantly training teachers and students in the methodology of the Listening Project, with transformative interviewing embedded in it, I have been able to see in real time what it means for a class, a teacher, a student to see one another in a more just and humane way. In short, I am able to utilize a method focused on strengthening relational intelligence to combat the symptoms of a crisis of connection that plague schools and all other environments, manifesting as loneliness, for example, which was recently declared an epidemic by the Surgeon General (1).

My rationale, thus, for starting CRH was to pursue the problem of rural homelessness through a lens of research and connection- connection between persons and services, organizations and institutions, and relevant research and practice. I wanted to understand why rural communities may be more susceptible to underrepresentation in the field of homelessness and research, leveraging my research experience and a perspective focused on integration. Jarrett and I also noticed a gap in research in the literature of homelessness with regard to rural homelessness in the United States, compared to urban homelessness, fueling our drive to contribute to the lives of the underserved. To do this, we created a policy-focused and a research-focused arm. Both are, of course, interconnected. We hope to expand the tools available to all organizations tirelessly working on the ground to help end homelessness in rural America.

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