School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

VCU School of Social Work Ph.D. student Aaron Kemmerer, M.S.W., got emotional when he learned he had won a highly competitive national award on a subject that is deeply personal.

Aaron Kemmerer headshot. Aaron is wearing a blue shirt, tie and glasses, and he's smiling.
Aaron Kemmerer, M.S.W.

“When I got the news, I cried,” says Kemmerer, who was selected for one of 13 national Grand Challenges for Social Work doctoral dissertation/capstone project awards. His proposal, titled “Transgender and Gender Expansive Southerners’ Experiences with Housing Instability,” was awarded for the End Homelessness category.

Kemmerer’s research included findings from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. According to the survey, only 16% of respondents reported homeownership, compared to 63% of the U.S. population. Nearly one-third (30%) had experienced homelessness at some point in their lifetime, and 12% reported experiencing homelessness in the year prior to completing the survey because they were transgender.

“It’s a complex problem,” he says. “There is generally not enough affordable housing for people that need it. Additionally, emergency shelters are often segregated by gender. It’s not as safe for trans people to be there.”

The $3,000 that Kemmerer was awarded for his project will help him compensate participants who are transgender and gender expansive Southerners for their time and insights during qualitative interviews.

“I am seeking to shift the narrative, to weave a collective story about what is going on with the Southern TGE housing justice movement,” he says. “I want to make it clear that this is not simply a tragic tale, but a complex story of fortitude, perseverance and connection. I am thrilled to be amplifying the economic justice work being done in the South.” 

»  See the full story at VCU News.

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