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Curtis Smith

Professor of Sociology, Bentley University
Chapter Member: Boston SSN
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About Curtis

Smith's research focuses on homelessness, inequality, social policy, and social movements. Smith’s overarching themes in writings include methodological issues related to “point-in-time” homeless counts, health issues among Hispanic immigrants in low-income housing, public policy, social movements, and activism related to the homeless. Smith serves as a board member of a national conference called the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology.


How to Support People Who Are Experiencing Homelessness

  • Ernesto Castaneda


"Unearthing Aggressive Advocacy" in Ethnography Uncensored:, edited by Miriam Boeri and Rashi Shukla (University of California Press 65, 2019).

Reflects on the challenges of reaching hidden populations.

"Red Tape Warriors: The Creative Workarounds of Aggressive Advocates " (Routledge , Forthcoming).
"Health, Hope, and Human Development: Building Capacity in Public Housing Communities on the U.S.-Mexico Border" (with Ernesto Castaneda, Holly Mata, Maria Flores, William Medina-Jerez, Josue Lachica, and Hector Olvera). Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 24, no. 4 (2013): 1432-1439.

Highlights results from our recent survey of public housing residents living in the U.S. Mexico border region. Informs our interdisciplinary (public health, education, environmental engineering, sociology) efforts to improve health and educational equity in our community, and provide ripe opportunities for policy advocacy. 

"Sick Enough? Mental Illness and Service Eligibility for Homeless Individuals at the Border" (with Ernesto Castaneda). Social Sciences 9, no. 8 (2020): 145.

Measures mental illness among individuals experiencing homelessness in a border city and compares it to the general housed population. Uses original data from a homeless survey conducted in El Paso, Texas.

"Improving Homeless Point-In-Time Counts: Uncovering the Marginally Housed" (with Ernesto Castaneda). Social Currents 6, no. 2 (2018): 91-104.

Explores point in time methodology focusing on visible street homeless individuals and those in shelters while neglecting the “marginally housed” or less visible homeless who live in automobiles or temporarily stay with friends and extended family.  Explains how they replicated HUD’s PIT count, but additionally targeted the marginally housed to improve traditional methods of counting the homeless in various ways.

"Fitting Stories: Outreach Worker Strategies for Housing Homeless Clients" (with Leon Anderson). Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 47, no. 5 (2018): 535-550.

Describes social service workers’ creation and negotiation of what we term "fitting stories" according to Michael Lipsky’s concept of street-level bureaucrats who exert considerable discretionary power in the performance of their roles as they negotiate between homeless clients and institutional gatekeepers. Elaborates on how outreach workers respond to barriers to qualifying their clients for housing.

"A Geographically-Aware Multilevel Analysis on the Association Between Atmospheric Temperature and the “Emergency and Transitional Shelter Population" (with Ernesto Castaneda and Carlos Siordia). Human Geographies 8, no. 2 (2014).

Examines the Emergency and Transitional Shelter Population (ETSP) with the help of the BAH Calculator —which includes what are commonly referred to as “homeless” people.

"Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Homeless Populations in El Paso, Texas " (with Ernesto Castaneda and Jonathan D. Klassen). Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 36, no. 4 (2014).

Compares Hispanic and non-Hispanic homeless populations in El Paso, Texas, collected in “traditional homeless spaces” as well as in non-traditional spaces where Hispanics may be more heavily represented. Finds Hispanics to be underrepresented when compared with the general population of El Paso.

"The Homeless and Occupy El Paso: Creating Community Among the 99%" (with Ernesto Castaneda and Josiah M. Heyman). Social Movement Studies 11, no. 3 (2012): 356-366.

Discusses how protestors during the Occupy movement in El Paso, Texas, argued that the homeless exemplified an important segment of the 99%, which gave the homeless people a different identity. Elaborates on how homeless people even credit the activities they carried with the Occupy El Paso movement for helping them recover from addiction and their eventual attainment of housing.