After an entire semester of research, social work majors at Saint Mary's College presented their final projects to the director of Hope Ministries in South Bend on Wednesday afternoon.
Social work professor Fran Kominkiewicz's class of social work majors conducted surveys with the residents of Hope Ministries, which serves as a homeless shelter and an agency to assist people during touch economic times.
"The students rose to the occasion beautifully," Kominkiewicz said. "This project was a chance for them to look at agencies like Hope Ministries in the South Bend community and determine what Saint Mary's can do to give back."
Two groups of Saint Mary's seniors presented their research on different aspects of homelessness in South Bend to the director of the local shelter and agency.
The first project focused on the health and lifestyle of the homeless, specifically diet, exercise and smoking.
The research showed that 80 percent of residents smoke a pack of cigarettes a day.
Eighty-five percent of residents also indicated walking as their primary form of exercise, most likely due to a lack of transportation. And although Hope Ministries does have a workout facility, 65 percent of residents have never used it.
"We found that updating the workout program or implementing a yoga class would be a waste of resources," senior group member Aileen Hurd said. "We recommended more educational resources on understanding the importance of healthier choices."
Senior Sarah Shoff said she had suggestions regarding nutrition at the Hope Ministries shelter.
"There is a positive trend in eating meals in Hope's kitchen and being overweight," Shoff said. "It might be beneficial to expand their selection at Hope of healthy eating choices."
The second project focused on housing, or lack thereof, for the homeless in South Bend.
"The point of our research was to see what the homeless consider as housing options," senior Lauren Toth said. "And also, to see the barriers of receiving housing."
The group surveyed residents on their housing history, educational background and employment.
Toth said the group's biggest finding was a high instance of unemployment.
Senior Alma Bravo said she was shocked at the education level of the residents of Hope Ministries.
"More than half had a high school diploma," Bravo said. "It wasn't like they hadn't had any sort of education. We concluded the state of the economy is contributing to the lack of jobs."
The group also took into account the housing history of the homeless.
"In terms of housing history, some were so scattered that there was never a stable living situation," Toth said. "It was interesting to see where people were in the past and to see where they wanted to be in the future and whether or not it was actually obtainable for them."
Both groups hope the agency will take results of their research into consideration.
"I think Hope Ministries would do well if they put more emphasis on finding employment," Toth said. "Because without monetary gain, personal housing is difficult to achieve."