Messenger - Vol. 3, No. 4, Page 11 Summer 1994 Students corner data for public policy decisions From gathering data on recreational fishing and hunting to preserving threatened historic structures through architectural drawings and photographs, graduate students in the College of Urban Affairs and Public Policy provide expertise to Delaware public agencies and community organizations. The Public Service Assistantship program, a partnership between the Delaware General Assembly and the University of Delaware, allows students to work with faculty and staff on projects of interest to local communities and the state. These same projects are often the starting point of analytic papers and theses. Now in its ninth year, the program operates with funds provided by the General Assembly. As many as 30 projects have been undertaken in one academic year, and some projects may involve multi-year research commitments. For example, beginning in 1986, Steven Peuquet of the college's Center for Community Development and graduate student Pamela Leland began research into homelessness. A statewide survey of emergency shelter providers, their clients and persons seeking temporary housing revealed that homelessness in Delaware is related to poverty, a lack of affordable housing, mental health problems or a combination of the three. Members of the college subsequently helped develop a comprehensive housing assistance strategy for the city of Wilmington and served on various state commissions. The early work on homelessness and housing led to a study of the homeless in Wilmington in 1991 and 1992, continuing today with a focus on homelessness and substance abuse. Leland, Delaware '92 Ph.D., says that her work on the early research project "was a major shaping force" of her dissertation on homelessness and post-industrial society. Other recent projects include developing a personnel practices and procedures manual for the city of Lewes; assessing credit access for low-income and minority households; examining the processing of civil cases in Superior Court; and organizing a conference on the future of the state's telecommunication infrastructure. "The Public Service Assistantship program creates the opportunity for faculty and students to work together in research to improve public policy," says director John Byrne, "while the project work acquaints them with the real-world demands of public policy."