Sociology Professor Dedicates Research to Serving Homeless Population 

Amy Donley headshot

Department of Sociology Associate Professor Amy Donley works closely with social inequality and the homeless community. Her work truly makes an impact in the lives of others and society.  

Take a look at what she has to say about her work below. 

Please describe your research and the impact of this research. 

I am an applied sociologist focusing on social inequalities, specifically poverty and homelessness. I have been conducting research on homelessness for nearly twenty years and have studied various aspects including the intersection of crime and homelessness, homelessness among seniors, homelessness among single fathers and unsheltered homelessness.  

Currently I am working with the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida conducting research to help in designing their soon to be built new shelter for women and families. This research is going to be used to make many decisions including how many beds there will be, what the shelter will look like from a design perspective and what programs will be available to the future guests.  

Pictured in photo from left to right: Caroline Austin, Dr. Amy Donley and Alexandria McClarty at research presentation.

Amy Donley standing with students

What does your research mean to you? 

Amy Donley standing with research group

This research is so important to me because I can see the impact it has on people’s lives. Homelessness is one of the most visible social issues in our country, and it is fixable! That is why all of my research is done in partnership with local agencies, so my work supports what the staff at these agencies do every day, which is helping people find safe, stable housing and meeting their needs in the interim.  

Pictured in photo from left to right:

Back row: Dr. Jacquelyn Reiss, Dr. Amy Donley, Julio Montanez, Sofia Herrerra and Chloe Milliron

Front row: Alexandia McClarty, Jonzelle Bell and Victoria Sulaman 

Why did you choose this research area? 

I never experienced homelessness myself and did not know much about the issue until I was in graduate school and took a course that required me to visit a shelter and speak with people experiencing homelessness. I spent a few hours there and cried on my way home realizing I had never thought about how important it is that I have a place to go home to every day. I began my research in this area soon thereafter and have continued to this day.  

How can individuals support the homeless community during the holiday season? 

Individuals experiencing homelessness can be supported during the holiday season (and year-round!) in many ways. One way is through donations. Most agencies have a list of needed donations on their website. You can pick up a few items on your next shopping trip or you can organize a donation drive with organizations you are a part of.  

During the holidays, toys and gift cards are definitely needed, and year-round items like socks, toiletries and bus passes are always appreciated. You can also donate your time. Agencies rely on volunteers to keep their organizations running. There are lots of things you can do like serving meals, organizing donations, assisting with paperwork and the like. 

Learn more about Donley’s work here.  

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