It has always been my dream to have a substantial positive impact on the world that I live in. Since as far back as I can remember the desire to help others has dominated not only my thought process, but also my actions. I believe that this desire is what has led me to pursue the social work field. The job of a social worker is complicated and very wide-reaching, but I believe the ultimate job description of a successful social worker can be summed up with one word; help. The ultimate goal of the social worker is to positively affect the lives of their individual clients and ultimately the society in which they live. I have learned that social workers operate at three levels which ultimately allows them to successfully promote the change that they desire. These levels are: Micro social work, which involves working with individuals; mezzo social work, which involves working with families or other small groups; and macro social work which involves working with agencies. (Gillies, Ester.).
When I first began this course, I was only cognizant of social work at the micro level. Through the readings and videos that I have had the opportunity to review, I am now aware that it is impossible to be an effective social worker without incorporating all three facets of the social work profession. My initial vision of being in an office working independently with a singular client has been forever changed. I am now aware of the immense responsibility social workers have to not only affect the individuals and families that walk through their doors, but also the impact they must have on the community and society that these individuals and families interact with daily, in order to accomplish real change. According to the National Association of Social Workers, “social workers have skills in cultural awareness and cultural competence, in which social work practice respectfully responds to, and affirms, the worth and dignity of people of all cultures, languages, classes, ethnic backgrounds, abilities, religions, sexual orientation, and other diverse features found in individuals.
Social workers look at the person-in-environment, including all of the other factors that influence the total health of the individual.” (Craig & Elizabeth 2005). Social workers must practice at the mezzo, macro and micro level in order to be effective. In order for social workers to effectively operate within a given community, they must first understand the community on an intimate level. Without knowledge of the surrounding community a social worker will not be aware of the factors that contribute to specific issues that persist with the clients and families that they serve and also will not be able to affect long lasting substantial change within their clients who ultimately have to live and operate daily in these communities. A good example would be helping an individual that struggles with alcoholism. Through therapy and extensive self-reflection and specific treatment strategies the individual can make substantial progress while in your office.
However, if this same individual must leave your office and return to work in a bar or some other environment that makes it difficult to maintain the level of progress reached in the therapy sessions, then the success that is experienced in those therapy sessions is short-lived. A social worker must also be aware of the services that are available to their clients as well as other factors affecting those services such as: distance (proximity)/transportation, cost, location/safety, hours of operation/work schedule, availability and other factors that would affect an individuals’ ability to acquire needed services. Lastly, before a social worker can begin to assist a client in working on issues that may persist they must first identify the issue, study the causes or underlying effects of that issue and then analyze the need for change before they can finally begin to formulate solutions (Netting, et al. 2012).
According to social work macro practice, “being a social worker requires seeing the client as part of multiple, overlapping systems that comprise the person’s social and physical environment. The profession of social work is committed to seeking social and economic justice in concert with vulnerable and under- served populations, and macro-practice skills are necessary in confronting these inequalities.” (Netting, et al. 2012). II. Community Demographics
The community that I choose to focus on during my community immersion activity was my own neighborhood of Memphis Tennessee. The community is commonly known as East Memphis (more accurately South East Memphis). I decided to focus on the specific zip code of 38141 because East Memphis is a very large area that is divided into several different sections. Each section has its own identity and can be identified by certain characteristics that readily distinguish them. I not only have lived in this community for the past seven years, I have also worked as a teacher and coach of multiple sports in the neighborhood middle school (Kirby Middle School) for six out of the last ten years of working for the Shelby County School system.
My mother is also a resident of this same community. She lives less than a mile from my house. I am extremely vested in this community for many reasons, but those are by far the most prevalent. Below is an outline of the parameters of the 38141 area code where I chose to focus my attention. The area that was covered in my community immersion activity is outlined in red on the map above. Below is a list of some demographical information based on information provided by city-data.com. (City-Data.com 2011) Estimated zip code population in 2011: 22,012 (By age)
Education and Employment
For population 25 years and over in 38141:
High school or higher: 88.4%
Bachelor’s degree or higher: 18.5%
Graduate or professional degree: 5.9%
Mean travel time to work (commute): 21.0 minutes
For population 15 years and over in 38141:
Never married: 33.7%
Now married: 44.8%
Races in zip code 38141:
White population: 1,650
Black population: 17,896
American Indian population: 29
Asian population: 208
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population: 5
Some other race population: 35
Two or more races population: 173
Hispanic or Latino population: 2,466
Estimated median house/condo value in 2011: $101,800
This zip code: $51,295
White Non-Hispanic householders: $100,352
Black or African American householders: $102,691
Asian householders: $110,042
Some other race householders: $107,368
Two or more races householders: $93,112
Hispanic or Latino householders: $98,792
Household received Food Stamps/SNAP in the past 12 months: 890 Household did not receive Food Stamps/SNAP in the past 12 months: 6,790 Owner/Renters
Median monthly owner costs for units with a mortgage: $1,211 (owner) Median monthly owner costs for units without a mortgage: $404 (renter) Single parent vs. Co-Parent households
3,160 married couples with children.
3,016 single-parent households (601 men, 2,415 women).
Foreign born population: 1,076 (4.9%)
(26.2% of them are naturalized citizens)
This zip code: 4.9%
Whole state: 4.8%
Private vs. Public School Enrolment
Private vs. public school enrollment:
Students in private schools in grades 1 to 8 (elementary and middle school): 119 Here: 3.7%
Students in private schools in grades 9 to 12 (high school): 63 Here: 3.4%
Students in private undergraduate colleges: 92
Crime Statistics for the entire East Memphis (also known as Hickory Hill) area which includes the following zip codes 38141, 38125, and 38115. I was unable to locate data for just the 38141 area code.
(Point to Homes 2014)
III. Community Characteristics
If I had to classify this community into a category, I would defiantly have to classify it as average or middle-class. There is very little that makes this community stand out from many of the others that I have visited throughout my life in many other states around the country. The homes are very similar to one another and there is little variation within the neighborhood in the style and size of the residence. It does not meet the criteria for an affluent community, nor does it meet the standards of a low-income urban area. I believe the strengths of this particular neighborhood would have to first be the quiet that is fairly consistent in all parts that I visited on my walk through the interior of the community. My first walk was on a Sunday during the afternoon.
The weather was perfect for outdoor activities. However, nearly every block I visited was empty and free from activity. With the exception of the few young boys playing basketball in the street (mostly in one of the many coves that exist), and a few children riding their bikes and scooters, there was very little movement and almost no interaction. This can be seen as a positive for those who enjoy a quiet environment, which I do; however, I also believe that a neighborhood should have a strong sense of community. And that this sense of community should be evident to all that visit. I was raised in a very poor and underprivileged section of the West Side of Chicago. One of the lasting memories from my childhood was the constant interaction between everyone that lived in the immediate vicinity of our house. There were very few days that I remember as a child where the neighborhood that I grew up in was not buzzing with activity and movement. Another strength of the community would have to be access to shopping and other establishments that provide goods that are needed on a daily basis. Every major street that surrounds this community offer a wealth of gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores (Riverdale only), barbershops, and many other places that offer needed goods.
The proximity of these places to the residences, as well as the variety of goods offered at most of the gas stations (Which are plentiful, more than ten) makes it not only accessible to those with vehicles, but also those that may be on foot. Another positive of the neighborhood is the opportunity to worship that is available. In my visit, which only covered a small portion of the whole community, I observed five separate churches that were spread throughout the community. It is always good to know that there is a spiritual presence in any community you plan to call home. Some weaknesses of the community would have to be the presence of youth gang activity. I did not witness any gang activity during my immersion, but I do have intimate knowledge of the presence of gangs in this area through my dealings with the students at my school as well as the neighborhood high school, which requires a very high police presence do to gang fighting and other activities.
I expected to encounter some gang graffiti or other signs of gang activity during my immersion, because I know that I have seen it before. However, to my surprise, there was none present during either of my immersion days. I would also have to list the lack of human interaction as a weakness. Although it makes for quiet neighborhoods, I just didn’t get the feeling of a very close-knit community during my visit. Most of the movement that I observed was individuals in vehicles traveling to and from their destination. I know that the world that we live in is fast paced and always moving, but I believe in order to truly call a place a community there should exude a feeling of family and togetherness. There are many educational opportunities in this community for learners of all ages. I am not fully aware of the quality of these educational institutions, but I will say there is a high quantity. In this specific area there is an elementary school, middle school, as well as high school.
If you stretch the boundaries out a little there are three other middle schools, two of which are charter schools, and one other elementary school and high school. There are also day cares that are located on Riverdale and Kirby as well as some home daycares that are located within the community. There are also learning opportunities for adult learners. There is a cosmetology school located on Riverdale Rd. There are also other services that are available to those in need, such as a minor medical clinic located about one mile outside of the community. The only medical establishment located within the parameters of the neighborhood would be an orthopedic clinic as well as a dialysis clinic.
There is no mental health or social service center located within the community according to Lt. Robinson of Engine Station 55 (Personal communication 2014), whom I had the pleasure of meeting during my immersion. He has worked in this community as a fire fighter for over ten years and says the only services that are available to the residents are an assisted living facility for the elderly and the fire station which serves the whole community. We both agree that there is not enough support offered to those that may be in need in the immediate community. IV. Community Structure and Decision-making
The Mayor of Shelby County is Mayor A. C. Wharton Jr. There are two legislators listed for this specific area: Rep. Joe Towns and Sen. Reginald Tate. Our representative is Steve Cohen (City of Memphis 2014). The city council has a strong influence on the make up the community. They are responsible for deciding which businesses are allowed to open, and which have to close down. The presence of certain businesses in the area has an impact on the overall living conditions of the community. They also have a great impact on the education system and oversee changes that happen at the school level. This area is very close to Germantown, which is a more affluent section of the city, so there is a strong police presence (both city and county) that maintains order and help to promote safety and deter crime. There is a very strong religious presence in the community.
Along with the wide variety of churches in the area, there are two mega-churches which have a very close relationship with the community and its residence. World Overcomers Christian Church is one of those mega-churches that has recently purchased and renovated the main shopping mall in this area that was ravaged by tournedos that came through this area a few years ago. This mall will offer jobs and other valuable resources that will help the community to move in a positive direction. New Direction Christian Church is the other mega-church in the area (my church home), which also currently serves as one of the area charter schools. The have recently purchased a very large portion of land previously owned by a dilapidated apartment complex. They are currently in the process of building a major town center that will have schools, assisted living facilities, adult education and other children centered activities that will be a great lift for the community. V. Reflection and Conclusion
I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to immerse myself in my community. I have lived here for some time and have become very comfortable in my surroundings. This activity gave me an opportunity to look at my community through the eyes of a tourist instead of that of a resident. I would have to say that there were very few (if any) surprises, because I frequently go into the community with my children and have traveled these same streets many a times by car, bike and foot. But this activity did force me to take a closer look at what is around me every day and start to see things through the eyes of a social worker instead of that of a normal passer-by.
City-Data. (2011) Retrieved from: http://www.city-data.com/zips/38141.html City of Memphis (2014)Retrieved from: http://www.cityofmemphis.org/ Craig de Silva, Elvira., Clark, Elizabeth J., National Association of Social Workers (2005) NASW Standards for Social Work Practice in Health Care Settings Gillies, Ester. 1.2 Spectrum of Social Work Practice Unit 1 (video): Introduction to Macro Practice: Values and Significance, Part I Lt. Robinson of Engine Station 55 (Personal communication, May 25, 2014). Netting, F. E., Kettner, P., McMurty, S. L., & Thomas, M. L. (2012). Social work macro practice. Chapter 1 p.6-9 (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Point to Homes (2014) Retrieved from: http://www.point2homes.com/US/Neighborhood/TN/Memphis/Hickory-Hill-Demographics.html