Homelessness, LGBTQ youth, and social work: Q&A with Jonah DeChants

jonah dechants
DeChants specializes in youth and young adult homelessness; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth and young adults; and youth participatory action research (YPAR) methods.

Jonah DeChants is a postdoctoral fellow for Inclusive Excellence and Health and Well-being Disparities at Colorado State University’s School of Social Work. Learn more about why he came to CSU, and his interests in youth and young adult homelessness; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth and young adults; and youth participatory action research (YPAR) methods.

1. What brought you to CSU’s School of Social Work?

I was particularly drawn to my position because of its focus on inclusive excellence and addressing issues of power, privilege, and oppression, which is one of my areas of research and teaching. More broadly, I was drawn to CSU and to the School of Social Work because of the strong focus on supporting students throughout their degree.

Having moved to Colorado four years ago to pursue my Ph.D. at the University of Denver, I am also thrilled to be able to stay in the Front Range and contribute to CSU’s land grant mission of serving Coloradans through scholarship and community engagement.

2. What are your research interests, and how did you get into that topic?

I use community-based methods to study the experiences and service needs of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, particularly those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). I became interested in this topic after working in child welfare and shelter services in Philadelphia, PA.

Myself and other Philly-based advocates noticed that very few young people were accessing city shelter’s because they didn’t feel safe staying with adults. Many youth also struggled to find and maintain stable housing after exiting the foster care system, due to insufficient exit planning and social supports.

These challenges are intensified for LGBTQ youth, who must also contend with homophobia and transphobia in their families, schools, and communities. I am passionate about giving LGBTQ youth the tools they need to become happy and healthy adults, and helping them find and maintain stable housing is a huge part of that.

3. What’s your teaching philosophy?

I use feminist and anti-oppressive pedagogical techniques in the classroom. While I have some expertise, I prefer to think of myself as a facilitator of a learning community. I encourage students to bring their own life experiences into the classroom and strive to make course content relevant to issues in our larger society. I focus heavily on helping students build their critical thinking skills, which they will need in their future social work careers.

jonah dechants4. What’s your favorite thing about campus so far?

My favorite thing about campus so far has been the people! Everyone, from my new colleagues in the School of Social Work, to the student workers at the RamCard office, has been so friendly, welcoming, and helpful. I also love the Lory Student Center and the amazing art on display there.

The School of Social Work is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.