CSRI students work to help homeless youth

Lizzie Mombello ’19, Jillian Schulte ’19, Conor Moore ’18, and Jacob Bennington ’18 often ventured off campus for their Cornell Summer Research Institute (CSRI) project.

You could find them at the Downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library, a 25-minute drive from campus, meeting with alumna Emily Zimmon ’12 who works for the Willis Dady homeless shelter. The alumna has connections with current faculty and presented an issue as an idea for further research during a get-together.

“Last summer we noticed a number of homeless youth were LGBTQ+ identifying, and an individual asked me for information on different resources,” Zimmon said. “After doing research, I saw there weren’t very many resources for them. That’s when I reached out to Erin Davis through a program that happened at Cornell—linking nonprofits to professors.”

So, professors started working with four CSRI students on a community action study, looking at resources for homeless youth in Cedar Rapids.

“When there’s nothing to start from, it feels like it’s very difficult to get that process going,” Bennington said. “We have been talking with people who work in Cedar Rapids and the resources—the things that we are trying to come up with—are things that are completely novel.”

Professor of Sociology Erin Davis and Professor of Anthropology Misha Quill teamed up to provide guidance. Davis says LGBTQ+ youth are disproportionately likely to be homeless due to tensions among family members about gender or sexual identities.

“There might be particular challenges for these youth because of cultural beliefs, community values, conflicts with parents, or other things that need direct attention,” Davis said.

The students interviewed service providers and homeless youth. They also volunteered at Green Square Meals, serving meals to people in need.

To find out more, watch their video story: