The primary reasons for homelessness in America today, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, are a lack of affordable housing and limited housing assistance programs, and poverty. Other factors include lack of affordable health care, domestic violence, mental illness and addiction.

The Duquesne University School of Nursing's 10th annual McGinley-Rice Symposium on Social Justice for Vulnerable Populations will tackle the complex issue of the homeless.

The Face of the Person Who is Homeless will be held Thursday, Oct. 17, and Friday, Sept. 18, in the Power Center Ballroom. Registration is now closed for the scholarly forum, which addresses issues of social justice in health care.

Sister Rosemary Donley, S.C., nursing professor and the Jacques Laval Chair for Justice for Vulnerable Populations at Duquesne, coordinates the conference. She said the conference agenda addresses the various categories of the homeless, such as veterans (the largest group), the chronically homeless, and women and children. "Women and children are the fastest-growing group," she said. "But often, women/families and children aren't counted because they may be staying with family members or friends, or in their cars."

Keynote speakers and their topics include:

  • Caitlin Cocilova, staff attorney, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Washington, D.C., Meeting People Where They Are: A Community Lawyering Perspective
  • Abigail Horn, deputy director, Office of Community Service, Allegheny County, with John G. Lovelace, president, UMPC for You, Inc. and president, Government Programs and Individual Advantage, It Takes a Village: Building a Community-Wide Response to Homelessness
  • Deborah Linhart, chief executive officer, Bethlehem Haven, Pittsburgh, The Changing Face of the Homeless
  • Dr. Jim Withers, medical director, Operation Safety Net, UPMC Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, Go to the People.

Donley hopes the conference can help deter the myth that the homeless are dangerous. "A lot of people are afraid of the homeless," she said. "They're more likely to be hurt than they are to hurt others. Living on the streets is dangerous."

Withers will be honored with the Eileen Zungolo Spirit of Service Award during the conference. The recognition is presented each year to a person whose life symbolizes and represents the mission of the McGinley-Rice Symposium. The award is named for the former Duquesne nursing dean, who wrote the grant that brought Donley to Duquesne and established the McGinley-Rice Symposium.

Conference plenary panels and breakout sessions will address topics such as Veterans who are Homeless; The Person who is Chronically Homeless; the Link Between Poverty, Health and Homelessness; Finding a House for Persons who are Homeless; and Homeless Families among other subjects.

Visit for more information, including the conference agenda, speaker bios and details on continuing education opportunities.

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October 14, 2019