Minnesota Homeless Study Volunteer Spotlight: David Schultz
David Schultz has spent much of his life educating people about and working to end homelessness. Born and raised in South St. Paul, he was a street outreach worker at Catholic Charities in the 70s and conducted a sociological study of “street people” while there. After getting his master’s degree in Urban and Regional studies at Mankato State University, he started a consulting business and worked with cities and counties on issues related to low-income populations, particularly the increasing number of people experiencing homelessness.
Dave has also been a volunteer for Wilder Research’s Minnesota Homeless Study ever since it began in 1991. He was a member of an early state task force on homelessness, which led to the original funding of the study. At that time, Dave was leading the housing and homelessness services at Minnesota Department of Human Services Adult Mental Health, and he’s been a passionate volunteer and advocate for the study ever since.
“This data is so important. Sociological studies tell society about social problems so solutions can be funded and found,” said Dave, who retired from DHS in 2013.
The Minnesota Homeless Study could not happen without the support of volunteers. Wilder relies on approximately 1,000 trained volunteers to conduct survey interviews with more than 4,000 people experiencing homelessness across Minnesota on the night of the triennial study. The in-depth interviews take place across the state at roughly 300 emergency shelters, domestic violence shelters, transitional housing programs, and non-shelter locations such as encampments, malls, and transit stops.
Volunteers sit with people who have agreed to participate in the study and talk with them for about 45 minutes, asking questions about their experiences and the circumstances that contributed to their homelessness. The information people share helps to show trends over time and address barriers to obtaining safe and stable housing.
The data and analysis from the study have become essential information for advocates, service providers, funders, and policymakers who rely on it to identify systemic issues; guide services, programs, and policies to support people experiencing homelessness; and track progress in efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate homelessness in Minnesota. The next study will take place on October 26, 2023.
“Dave has been an amazing volunteer and has a great ability to connect with people experiencing homelessness,” said Michelle Decker Gerrard, Minnesota Homeless Study co-director and senior research manager at Wilder Research. “He not only contributes his own time and expertise to interviewing each study cycle, but he also shares his commitment and passion with his students. In this way, he’s helping to develop the next generation of engaged citizens and volunteers.”
Dave educated future generations about homelessness in a course he taught at Metro State University from 1986-2022 called “Homelessness: Critical Issues for Policy and Practice.” As part of the class, his students volunteered for the homeless study and helped interview people who are experiencing homelessness.
“This data means so much to me,” said Dave. “I used this yearly in my class – this was my textbook. My class was able to use this data to understand what homelessness is about and think about how to help solve this problem.”
Dave noted that when he first offered his course, students were very few because the public had no idea what was going on. “Everyone came to find out what I knew about solving the problem. My course, however, had the goal to say, ‘Stop being a part of the problem and become a part of the solution’.”
Dave says it takes all of us to solve our society’s problems. “The study offers the opportunity for members of our society to listen to the real educators on homelessness: the people who are homeless.”