Dehavenon and Simpson win Foster-Scholz distinguished service awards

Two extraordinary Reed alumni received this year's Foster-Scholz distinguished service award for their outstanding contributions to their communities.


Foster-Scholz distinguished service award winners John Simpson '40 and Anna Lou Dehavenon '48 stand with president Steven Koblik.
For almost 30 years, Anna Lou Melson Dehavenon '48 has researched the effects of governmental policies on homeless families in New York, logging thousands of hours at the New York City's Emergency Assistance Unit. She has also become an advocate for these same families, and her research has played a crucial role in many lawsuits brought on behalf of homeless families. Dehavenon's career as a social anthropologist began in 1967 when at the age of 40 she began taking classes at Columbia University's school of general studies. While she was conducting her dissertation research, she became aware of the plight of homeless families in New York City. In 1973 she co-founded the East Harlem Interfaith Welfare Committee, a coalition of religious voluntary agencies that did welfare advocacy. With the national economy beginning to slow, Dehavenon saw an explosion of poverty in the mid-1970s. She also became aware of how little reliable information existed about families in poverty, and so began a systematic and comprehensive documentation of their circumstances.

In 1985 Dehavenon conducted a year-long survey for the East Harlem Interfaith Welfare Committee, documenting the worsening of hunger conditions in New York City and the social services' response to them. Her report caused a sensation, making it into the New York Times, the Daily News, the Christian Science Monitor, and the New Yorker. Dehavenon has conducted it annually, using it to recommend policy changes to the social service organizations. Her data on the number of children forced to sleep on chairs in offices was the basis for a court order that homeless families be given decent emergency shelter before midnight.

Dehavenon is also a co-founder of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and the Task Force on Poverty and Homelessness of the American Anthropological Association. She has worked as the field director at Columbia's Depart-ment of Anthropology, served as a project director for United Neighborhood Houses, and was a visiting assistant professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.



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