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Presentation: 5:26

Poster attached as supplemental file below


The Signs of Humanity Project (SOH) was an artist researcher collaboration designed to explore the lived experience of people who panhandle (PWP) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA). In collaboration with an artist Willie Baronet, MFA and researcher Rosemary Frasso, PhD, nine Jefferson University students interviewed 41 PWP. This project brought students out of the classroom and into the community where they were able to learn about the perspectives of those who shared their stories. To explore the students’ perspectives on participating in this project, each student on the team interviewed 1-7 individuals over the course of 1 week. After data collection was complete, students recorded video reflections of their experience. The videos were uploaded into NVivo12 software and were reviewed and analyzed using common coding techniques. Students indicated that while they often pass by people holding signs, this project gave them a chance to examine their own assumptions about this community, and noted that having a chance to sit down and conduct interviews with people who were experiencing homelessness was powerful, humbling and moving. Students also said that it was “easier” to speak to people than they expected, describing the experience as “eye opening”. Some noted feeling sad and guilty about prior interactions or non-interactions with this community. Several students noted that being part of this project changed their views, and informed their career path. Researchers engaging students in research with vulnerable populations, must think about the impact on the students and their psycho-emotional wellbeing. Students need time to debrief and process these experiences. Researchers should prepare students for the experience and be prepared to provide support. It may be wise to schedule debrief sessions with counseling professionals who can help students process the stories they hear.