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CCU Swain Scholars develop survey as part of homelessness study

February 5, 2016

Three Coastal Carolina University students have initiated a research project about homelessness in Horry County.

Students Emma Kroger, Nancy Phillips and Kerry Dittmeier, all juniors who are members of CCU's Swain Scholars program, have developed a survey designed to gather information on public perceptions about homeless people. They plan to compare survey public opinion findings with real data they collect through firsthand interviews and experience. It is their goal to bridge the gap between the perceptions and the reality of homelessness.

Part of the mission of the Swain Scholars program at CCU is to partner with community agencies in researching health-related issues and implement community health programs, according to program coordinator Sharon Thompson, professor of public health at CCU.

The students became interested in homelessness issues after learning that Horry County is ranked second in the state for the largest homeless population and first for the highest population of unsheltered homeless individuals.

The survey will continue until mid April, but the entire project could take up to a year to complete. Once the data is collected, the scholars will begin a process of analysis to determine patterns in perceptions. This will then be compared to the reality of homelessness they found when going out into the field. Working closely with the Veterans Association, North Strand Housing and Eastern Carolina Homelessness Organization (ECHO), the scholars have been making trips to homeless shelters and to areas that are highly populated with homeless people to collect their stories.

The scholars have been documenting each story in order to create an outreach project that will be shared with the public. They hope to share each story through multiple media outlets to prove that homelessness is a more complicated issue than generally imagined.

The Swain Scholars Program selects up to four students a year from the College of Science through a competitive application process. The program was made possible by a gift from retired Myrtle Beach pharmacist, Kenneth E. Swain.

The survey can be accessed at:

For more information, contact Thompson at 843-349-2535 or