Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Linda Whiteford, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Martha Coulter, Dr.P.H.

Committee Member

Heide Castaneda, Ph.D.


Homelessness, Poverty, Maternal and child health, Health disparities, Medicaid


The UpliftU® program is a long-term residential program for women and families who are homeless or at risk for homelessness. This program is one part of a larger, community-based non-profit organization serving low-income and homeless families in Hillsborough County, Florida for over 35 years. This program is not an emergency shelter program, but rather offers up to 18 months of participation in a self-sufficiency program to single women and families. The goal of the program is to prevent future homelessness for residents by helping them to reach their highest level of self-sufficiency. After volunteering at this organization for nine months, I completed an internship as the Health Specialist Case Manager for the UpliftU® program during the summer of 2008.

The internship was conducted using ethnographic research methods to understand counseling team members' and resident mothers' perceptions of access to health care resources and their experiences in utilizing area health care services. This thesis compares the perspectives of the counseling team members with the resident mothers' perspectives, and examines barriers to and gaps in service provision, as reported by both groups. Findings from qualitative data analysis suggest that counseling team members conceptualize the barriers to health care as originating at the individual level with resident mothers' behaviors and actions, while resident mothers' expressed that they experience barriers to health care services at interpersonal and institutional levels. Resident mothers described how health professionals and staff treating them poorly leads to barriers to health care at an interpersonal level, and that at an institutional level the bureaucratic hassles associated with public insurance and public clinics also acted as barriers to care. Such differences in perception of causality of barriers to health care services between counseling team members and resident mothers have significant ramifications for resident mothers' health and ability to access health care services.