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College of Social Work

  • MSW student Isabella Gormanson

You Can Go Home Again

Aug. 13, 2019
Chris Woodley •

Isabella Gormanson’s first experience with the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority (SC Housing) was when she was six years old and entered the “What My Home Means to Me” coloring and essay contest. A year earlier, her family moved into a home financed through the SC Housing Homeownership Program.

“I remember sitting at the table and coloring, and my mom asking me if I could draw a picture of our house,” Gormanson says.

While Gormanson colored, her mom dictated her thoughts for the essay. Even at six years old, she knew living in a house was a stable environment:

My home means playing on the grass, instead of pavement, in our backyard. Having our home means grilling out and having family and friends over to eat with us. Living in my home means growing up with my brother and not moving from place to place. My home means to me that my mommy's happy.

Gormanson received an honorable mention certificate for her coloring and essay. SC Housing returned to her life this summer, but instead of using crayons and pencils, she applied her social work skills and education as a housing policy research intern.

“When I told my mom that I was applying for the internship she said, ‘You have to tell them that you participated in the contest; they'll love it,’” Gormanson says. “I mentioned the contest during my interview, and they were excited to hear that I had participated.”  

Gormanson, who has an interest in homelessness and affordable housing, interned twice a week at SC Housing’s offices in Columbia from May until early August. She primarily worked on how SC Housing allocates the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit through the state's Qualified Allocation Plan. Prior to her internship, she completed her foundation year field education at Transitions Homeless Center in Columbia, where she will continue her field practicum for her advanced year.

“I saw the internship at SC Housing as a way to gain a better perspective on the affordable housing crisis and the problem of homelessness in Columbia and throughout the state,” Gormanson says. “It was an opportunity to see how homelessness can be prevented and countered through the financing, development and maintenance of affordable housing. I wanted to create a more well-rounded experience for myself and gain a better understanding.” 

Gormanson believes housing is a human right for everyone and referred to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a common theory referenced in social work. The motivational theory is a five-tier model of human needs, which is often displayed as hierarchical levels of a pyramid.

“While the top of the pyramid is more self-fulfillment needs, the lower tier includes physiological needs, such as food, water and shelter,” Gormanson says. “Without meeting those basic needs, a person is unable to meet higher level needs. If housing needs are not met, then someone cannot be a productive member of society or be in a good state of health or wellness.”

Some renters in South Carolina also face issues with affording basic needs. According to Gormanson, renters spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing-related costs are considered cost-burdened. But renters spending more than 50 percent of their monthly income are considered severely cost-burdened and this negatively impacts their ability to afford other basic needs, such as food, clothing and transportation. 

“The biggest thing I learned from my internship is that although efforts are being made toward the creation, development and preservation of affordable housing, there's more that needs to be done in order to have enough affordable housing to prevent and reduce homelessness,” Gormanson says. “There needs to be a more collective effort to create and advocate for affordable housing in the state.”

Gormanson said she enjoyed the opportunity to be part of the conversation of how to encourage the development of different types of affordable housing, including permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals. After graduating next spring, she hopes to embark on a career of advocating for affordable housing that allows individuals to afford all their basic needs.  

“I want to work in a housing-related field, which is why I accepted the internship at SC Housing and applied to stay another year at Transitions,” Gormanson says. “Even back in high school, I've always been drawn to work in this field. When you think about drug addiction and mental health, how are you able to help those people stop using or help them become more stable if their basic need of housing is not met? Housing is necessary in ensuring that all of an individual’s needs are met.”

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