Reflections on Social Work, Social History, and Practice Experience: “It Ain’t the Same If You’re Poor”

  • Alice Skirtz Alice Skirtz2208 Eureka TerraceCincinnati, Ohio 45219Institutional affilation: trying to retire
Keywords: economic poverty, Poverty, poverty-stricken communities, policy advocacy, privatization, micro/macro practice, socio-economic-political injustices, policy interface with democratic governance


Reflection on more than four decades of social work practice with poor people and poverty-stricken communities reveals necessary and sufficient connections between micro and macro practice, but finds gaps in social work practice knowledge in settings where corporate interests obviate democratic participation in public policy decision-making. Practice experience is found to have surprising connections to both the author’s social history and to socio-economic-political systems now stifled by privatization supported by diminishing democratic procedures at several levels of governance. Case illustrations from the author’s practice provide richly detailed accounts of lived experiences from casework and advocacy practice in settings where social welfare policies reach deeply and effectively to meet human need, while at the same time revealing grave social-economic-political injustices. Mainstream powers and governance are inoculated from social work advocacy, and community organization is impotent. On behalf of clients and communities suffering social injustices of poverty, discrimination, and erasure from communities, the author calls for social workers, social work educators and researchers to refine and renew social work knowledge (including poverty knowledge) and practice knowledge (especially advocacy) to empower work for social justice.

Author Biography

Alice Skirtz, Alice Skirtz2208 Eureka TerraceCincinnati, Ohio 45219Institutional affilation: trying to retire

Alice Skirtz, PhD/LISW-S, has more than 40 years of social work experience working with programs that serve poor people – homeless shelters, family services, emergency assistance, adult and child day care, and teen parent residential services. She formerly was the Director of Social Services for The Salvation Army (Cincinnati – SWONEKY Division), and served as Casework Supervisor for the Family Shelter Partnership Program, a Cincinnati/Hamilton County Continuum of Care (CoC) collaboration of five shelters serving homeless families. Skirtz has MSW and PhD degrees in social work and social policy, is an Ohio Licensed Independent Social Worker Supervisor (LISW-S), and a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW). As an active volunteer she is a board member of Affordable Housing Advocates (AHA); a founding member and current board member of the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition; past-Chair of the City of Cincinnati Community Development Advisory Board (CDAB); and, Board Member and past-President of the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati (MARCC), an interfaith coalition convened to work on urban social justice issues. She chaired the 2015 Steering Committee for the "Family Homelessness & Housing Stability Study" for the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, and since 2010 has worked with the Miami University Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine.