Community Change Initiative - Coastal Carolina University
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Community Change Initiative

The Community Change Initiative engages students in activist research with people experiencing housing insecurity in Horry County.

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Dr. Stephanie Southworth and Dr. Sara Brallier, along with students in their Sociology of Poverty (SOC 311), Social Inequality (SOC 309), Methods for the Social Sciences (SOC 331), and Independent Research (SOC 399) courses, engage in collaborative research with several agencies serving people experiencing food and housing insecurity in Horry County - Faith Outreach Ministries food distribution ministry, Shepherd's Table food pantry, Fresh Brewed Coffee House, and the East Coast Homelessness Organization (ECHO). 

The research projects are designed to guide students through the process of (1) assessing the needs of low-income individuals and the ability of local agencies to meet their needs, (2) educating community service organizations and the general public about the needs; (3) creating fundraising and educational opportunities to help agencies and the general public to better serve the impoverished. This project provides students with valuable experience conducting qualitive research. Drs. Southworth and Brallier along with their students have conducted over 250 interviews with people experiencing homelessness in Horry County.

Drs. Southworth and Brallier have co-authored a book based on their six years of research on homelessness in Horry County, S.C. The book, titled “Homelessness in the 21st Century: Living the Impossible American Dream,” uses data from their interviews and field notes and identifies barriers including a lack of affordable housing, the stigmatization of homelessness, inadequate access to healthcare and gainful employment, and difficulty accessing available social services.

Community Change Initiative

Initial findings from the study indicated that lack of reliable and affordable transportation to be a significant barrier to obtaining and maintaining employment, making and keeping healthcare and social service appointments, and maintaining their social support network. Using this information, we worked with the university and local communities to create the Rolling Forward Program, a bike share program which operates out of the local shelters for people experiencing homelessness. Over the past year we have continued to maintain and grow this program. We support bike share programs at New Directions, ECHO, and Seahaven Shelter/ Project Lighthouse.

The need among people experiencing homeless for hygiene items also emerged from our interviews. To address this need we created at Giving Wall at the Shepherd’s Table Community Kitchen where individuals can take what they need without the humiliation of asking for basic items (such as soap, toothbrushes/toothpaste, sanitary pads and tampons or condoms).


Recognition Received

Coastal Carolina University recognized Sara Brallier and Stephanie Southworth's contributions to the homeless community during the 2022 Faculty Innovation and Excellence Awards, where they were presented with the Public Engagement, Outreach, and Service Award.

In the News

Grand Strand's Lower-Income Communities Vulnerable After Natural Disaster

Resource Fair for Homeless Community

Rolling Forward: CCU’s Bike Program for the Homeless, Progression

Homeless Population Research at CCU

Coastal Comeback – Sociology Research with the Homeless

Rolling Forward: Transportation Issues Are a Roadblock for Homeless People in Myrtle Beach

Coastal Now – Rolling Forward Anniversary

Help for the Homeless: Resource Fair 

News 13 Coverage

Shedding light on hidden struggles: CCU professors bring forth the harsh realities of homelessness through photography

Related Research Publications

Southworth, S. & Brallier, S. (2023). Homelessness in the 21st century: Living the impossible American dream.

Brallier, S. Southworth, S. & Ryan, B. (2019). Rolling Forward: addressing the needs of the homeless community. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 28(2):96-105. Read the article here: Rolling Forward.

Southworth, S. & Brallier, S. (2020). The American Dream: Using Robert Merton’s strain theory to understand the beliefs and coping responses of homeless individuals. Sociological Imagination, 56 (2):61-81.  
Read the article here: The American Dream.

Southworth, S. & Brallier, S. (2021). Using community based learning to advance student understanding of the homeless. College Teaching, 69(2): 91-99.
Read the article here: Using Community Based Leading to Advance Student Understanding of the Homeless.


For More Information

Stephanie Southworth, Ph.D. (

Stephanie Southworth is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Coastal Carolina University (CCU). Her research focuses on ways to reduce social inequalities. Stephanie is very involved in the community and serves on the Board of Directors at Faith Outreach Ministries and Shepherd's Table.

Sara Brallier, Ph.D. (

Sara Brallier is a Professor of Sociology at CCU, where she has been a faculty member since 2000. Her specializations are social gerontology, social inequality and research methodology. Sara is also an active member of the University and local community. She serves on the executive board of CAP Food Pantry and serves on the Board of Directors at Faith Outreach Ministries and Shepherd's Table.



Sara Brallier and Stephanie Southworth at a resource fair for the homeless community.